June 19, 2008

How Do You Read It?

This is the question that Jesus asked of a lawyer who asked what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus knew the man was well schooled in the writings of the Hebrew faith and, as expected, the man confidently regurgitated the right answers from scripture. "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself." Jesus affirmed his perfect score on the test paper but was not content to call that a 'passing grade' as He pressed this lawyer beyond information to transformation and called on him to "Do this, and you will live." (Read the entire story in Luke 10)

The question of how one reads changes the game completely. I'm pretty good at remembering and regurgitating lists of things. Give me a fill in the blank or listing test and I'm good to go. But ask me to take this same material and put it to work in my everyday life that's another thing altogether.

Recently our Wednesday night bible study centered on Genesis 4. Among the issues raised by this passage was the issue of worship; why was Cain's offering unacceptable? In the midst of the conversation mention was made of the difference in Cain and Abel's offering, Cain's from the harvest and Abel's from the flock.

One commented, "What's the big deal?"

To which I replied, "You've never had a garden before have you?"

"NO." they answered.

I asked our group the question, "How many of you would be willing to give up that first tomato of the season?" (Audible groan)

Suddenly the text became alive. Not just a dusty and dried up story. It became our story. A story to which we could suddenly, and unexpectedly, relate.

The other morning I, once again, had the joy of turning dirt in my little patch of rocky and sandy soil. In the midst of this simple, humble act of faith I thought of Cain. I suddenly became Cain. I heard his cry of anguish at being banished from working the soil. There is simple joy in turning dirt and I was arrested by the fact that the first thing he mentions concerning his judgment from God is this, to no longer be able to do that which he loved. I ached with Cain. I understand now.

How do you read it? It must come to life. It must enter into the living breathing, dirt turning, sermon preaching, child rearing, teeth brushing life that I am living. When it does, something remarkable happens, I am transformed.


Paul Thompson said...

John, This is a big question you ask. I've been pondering over it for a few days. I think you hit on a serious issue for the church today too. I think about Adam and Eve's attempt to cover their sin, God declared in unacceptable by giving them an appropriate covering. Cain attempted to give God something that God declared unacceptable, It seems as though when God invites us to worship him he even tell us what is acceptable. I wonder how much worship in church tomorrow will be declared unacceptable by God and I wonder how much idolatry will be going on because people and churches are approaching God on their terms and not on His?

Thanks for posing the thoughts. I have some more thinking upon those issues to do.

Mike said...


These are great words and provoke much thought. Let me chew on this.