I remember chatting to an old neighbour about her bible reading. Every day; rain, hail or shine, she’d read a portion of scripture. Inspired, I asked what kept her going – and what she’d been learning. She sighed deeply. ‘Well’ she said, ‘It’s just what we do, isn’t it? Christians read the Bible. We stick to the reading plans. We stay the course – even when it’s dull’.
Having recently staggered through 2 Chronicles, this was not enough. Why not look at something else, I ventured? A cheeky psalm – or a slice of the apocalypse?
She looked at me sternly down her glasses:
‘No dear. No. The point of the Bible is not that you enjoy it. The point is that you read it’.
In some ways she’s right. The Bible is not like other books and it’s vital we listen to it. Left to itself, my brain is not a repository of wisdom, truth and hope. It’s filled with celebrities, bills and catfood – and it sounds suspiciously like Jeremy Kyle. It needs regular intervention: a reminder of all that’s real and true.
But. The Bible itself is not the goal. We don’t just read it for the sake of it. It’s a neon sign, pointing us to JESUS.
And when I say it points us to Jesus, I don’t mean as an exercise in collecting information about Him. Sure that might be interesting – in the same way as reading about the life of Gandhi or Buddha. It might inform me – but it doesn’t change me; and it doesn’t make me a Christian.
The Bible matters because it’s how I actually encounter Jesus. Like Cilla Black, introducing us to the love of our lives. Like picking up the phone to your lover; or skyping your best friend. Every verse, (even the genealogies), shouts His name. Every word says: ‘Look! Isn’t He beautiful! Isn’t He trustworthy!’
As I’m looking down the barrel of Monday, I don’t need more rules or some cosy stories from long-ago. I need to know that the week ahead will be ok. I need see who I’m following: to know that He is more real than the broken photocopier, the dirty nappies and the habits I can’t break.
It’s hard to trust and it’s hard to be dependent. Much easier to make a list or send an email than spend time in God’s word. But dependence is only as scary as the person we’re depending upon. If they let us down or harm us, then we’re forced to fend for ourselves. But if they’re generous and faithful and loving and powerful – if they’re like Jesus – then the week becomes possible. And we see the Bible for what it is – a parachute instead of a sack of rocks.