Thursday, May 12, 2016

Misinformation, Information, or Transformation?

It’s often said the Bible is the best-selling, least-read book ever written. That seems to be true, based on comments and perspectives we hear about the Bible on TV, radio, newspapers and magazines, the Internet, social media, casual conversation – and even some of our churches.

World sales of the Bible exceed 100 million copies each year, with revenue from sales in the United States alone ranging between $425 million and $650 million annually. Yet the average person knows surprisingly little about what’s between the front and back covers. For instance, “God helps those that help themselves” and “cleanliness is next to godliness” aren't found in any Bible.

There are those who seem to have learned much of what they know about the Scriptures from the books of 2 Opinions or 3 Speculations. They preface comments about God and the Bible with, “Well, I think….” It’s fine to know what people think, and everyone’s entitled to their own points of view. But have they ever truly looked to see what the Bible actually says? Without seriously doing so, all we have to work with is misinformation.

Others are quick to cite specific passages that serve to reinforce a point they want to make. For instance, they point out Jesus commanded us to “love your neighbor as yourself,” but forget (or ignore) that He first said we’re to Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind (Matthew 22:36-39, Mark 12:30-31, Luke 10:27). Because we can’t really do our best at loving our neighbors without first loving God as we should.

Pulling passages selectively from the Bible provides us with useful information, but without studying them in proper context and considering what some would term, “the whole counsel of God,” that’s all it is – information.

Over my years of reading, studying and meditating on the Scriptures, I’ve learned their intent is definitely not for misinformation. Nor did God provide them merely for information. His goal for us is simple: Transformation.

This time of year we celebrate the renewal of life – flowers growing, bees buzzing, and before too long, butterflies flitting about. But the thing about butterflies is there’s an important step required for them to become such delicate, colorful, graceful creatures. They must first exist in life as caterpillars.

The cartoon I’ve posted cleverly makes this point. How a fuzzy, slow-moving caterpillar builds and then resides in its cocoon until the time is right for it to work its way out, emerging as a lovely butterfly is one of nature’s (God’s) wonders. But what’s the link between the Bible and butterflies? They both involve transformation.

When Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:3, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again,” He wasn’t talking about attitude adjustment, but transformation. For emphasis Jesus repeated a few verses later, "You must be born again" (John 3:7) Another passage elaborates: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Out with the old; in with the new.

Picture a butterfly emerging from the cocoon. It bears little resemblance to its former self. This serves as a physical metaphor for spiritual transformation. As we mature in our faith in Jesus Christ, the persons we once were should seem less and less like the people we’re becoming. Our former selves should be more and more like an old photo, bearing little likeness to what God is reshaping us to be.

So in reading the Bible, I’m wary of misinformation. I appreciate the information I receive, but don’t want to stop there. What I’m after is transformation. That’s what God is after for all of us.

1 comment:

Steve said...

Agreed. More important than any other habit of routine I have pursued or developed over the years is regularly (daily, most of the time) reading the Bible. Now over 38 times, cover to cover. Still, a work in process.