One of the things Christians do is read scripture, the Bible. But how do we read the Bible, that’s an important question. How we read the Bible shapes the what we believe is important to God and hence, what Christianity ought to be about.
Growing up, I was taught to read the Bible as though the New Testament was a blueprint for the formation of the church, with the Old Testament having only historical value. Consequently, I can recall debates taking place over how the church should care for orphans (i.e., could the church support an orphanage?). It seems hard to believe that so much energy was spent on the question of “how” we care for orphans rather than just ministering to their needs. But that’s what happened because of the way the Bible was read.
In more recent years, I have ran across Christians who read the Bible to extrapolate principles. It goes something like this: Citing a passage like Matthew 10.16 which reads, “…be shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves,” a principle regarding wisdom will be formed. The problem with extrapolating principles from scripture is that once we extrapolate the principle, it is the principle that becomes the rule (authority) rather than the scripture itself. I use this example because on more than one occasion I have heard Christians employ this wisdom principle to exclude using money to benevolently help those in need, both in and outside of the church.
That highlights a problem that seems to dog Christianity…reading the Bible in the wrong way. Jesus begins his ministry with a call for his disciples to follow him where he teaches them to think and live as he does and then commissions them to go out and teach other people how to think and live as Jesus does. That tells me something about the way we read scripture. If our reading of scripture does not result in us thinking and acting like Jesus then it would seem that we are misreading scripture.
The day is overdue for us to learn how to read scripture so that we think and live as Jesus did. We can disagree all day long over how a particular passage or two actually out to be understood but for those who have the eyes to see and ears to hear, there is little to wonder about the way Jesus thought and how he lived. If we’re to be followers of Jesus who take scripture seriously, then we must learn to read scripture to follow Jesus…to think and live as Jesus did.