- - Thursday, December 11, 2014

All times are historic and momentous. All eras filled with grand stories and discoveries, with tales of heroic acts, huge tragedies and amazing wonders. Ours is such a time as well. For Christians, the Bible is supposed to guide the way we understand our histories and sustain our hopes for the future. Yet despite years of systematic teaching of the Bible, it is in many ways unnoticed today in the Church around the world. There are many good and well-intentioned Bible-believing people all around the globe. Yet the proposal here is for the Church to go beyond the stories and the verses themselves, and move towards the ability to see (and act) with eyes that show that another better world is not only possible, but has come in the kingdom of God brought by Jesus Christ another world is possible where people “may have life abundantly” (Gospel of John 10:10).

Bible engagement is life-enhancing. It is taking the Scriptures so seriously that we can see our past and our future with the same perspective as Mary, the mother of Jesus who upon hearing that she would bear a child, the young woman declared, “Here I am, the servant of the Lord” (Gospel of Luke 1:38). To her relative Elizabeth she narrated her life and the works of God in light of texts from her sacred scriptures. The Bible both guided her thoughts and her actions such that God through her obedience made the world a better place. Mary is an embodiment of Bible engagement.

Engaging with Scripture can be revolutionary. It upset self-important people in Nazareth when Jesus preached from the prophet Isaiah. In the late 4th century it turned Augustine’s life upside-down and through him changed the course of church history. It led Luther to challenge the nominalism and abuse in his times. It led Mother Teresa to challenge all the Church to see Jesus in those to whom our world turns a blind eye.

Through Bible engagement, the Church can be a source of “healing for the nations” (Revelation 22:2). It can inspire creative ways for Christians to engage as faithful witnesses to Jesus to address urban violence, corruption, and socio-economic inequalities. It can transform anger and violence into acts of justice and peace.

In the multiplicity of our cultures, engaging with the Bible opens our eyes to see the world and our society through different eyes. As the narratives of Scripture unfold and we hear them anew through the retelling of someone from the other side of the world, we can see God act in ways we had not seen before. Like a kaleidoscope that with each turn offers the viewer a new shape or a new color combination, we are invited to see and participate in God’s work in the world in new, beautiful and amazing ways which we could not have determined in advance. We are exposed to viewpoints and perspectives with which we might not agree. And yet, at the same time, that is part of the beauty of God’s kingdom, and a unique gift that Bible engagement has to offer — a way for Christians from all around the globe to come together to learn, teach, debate, disagree, sometimes agree, and in the process, improve ourselves and the world around us, making it a better place.

Bible engagement is not about winning the argument or having the best idea, but about participating in the kingdom of God. It is about the whole church taking the whole gospel to the whole world and about learning with others what it means to be on that journey together. It is a humbling and exciting role to play as we strive towards answering the invitation to the kingdom and extending that invitation to others, building a better life for our communities and for the next generations.

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