Don’t You Folks Ever Read Your Bibles?

I saw a lot of hurt-filled and hurtful posts on the internet this week, and roughly 97% of them were in the Facebook group for my Christian alma mater. I have no interest in delving into the weeds surrounding the drama my former university is wading through right now. Instead, I want to celebrate the legacy of founder Dr. John Mitchell who was known for repeating the phrase, “Don’t you folks ever read your Bibles?” There’s a plaque outside the library to memorialise this man’s love for the Bible.

Personally, I think it’s a pretty great book, and it’s radically changed my life for the better. I really love to read the Bible – especially with other people. The thing is, lots of people who go around calling themselves Christians don’t actually bother to read this book they say is so important. Or if they do, they don’t then let the words change their lives, and as any of my former students can tell you, the purpose of reading the Bible is to foster loving relationships with God and other people (thank you, Dr. Ray Lubeck).

A couple of weeks ago, I was talking with one of my youth leaders about how she wanted to get her small group girls to all read their Bibles – which I think is a great goal. She admitted, though, that some of them already did this regularly while others may have never done it on their own. I challenged her to reframe the goal as getting more Bible engagement; for those who read it regularly, were they now increasing in their application of what they read while the rest were developing the starting habit of reading the Bible on their own. We had a rich conversation about how reading the Bible should be more than just a checkbox in the life of a Christian, and I’m excited to see how this unfolds in her small group through the next year. A different leader talked to me about how she wanted to encourage her girls to read the Bible, and we decided that she and I would start reading it together fortnightly as a model for her to offer with her small group.

A couple of years ago I reflected on the title of Ray’s book I used in class, Read the Bible for a Change and included a poem with the same title in this post. You actually can’t search for that post by title alone because the year prior to that, I’d had another one using the same title. This love of reading the Bible is a recurring theme in my life. One of my greatest joys as an educator was the opportunities I had to ask a crowded room full of teenagers, “What is the purpose of reading the Bible?” to immediately hear them shout in excited unison, “To foster loving relationships with God and other people!” My greater joys as a Jesus follower is to have some of those students read the Bible with me after they finish my class. Leaving behind that picnic table where so many “teaology” conversations happened was difficult, but what a joy to know that God has prepared different places for those kinds of conversations in Christchurch.

Already I’ve found new friends to read the Bible with me here, and this past week one of my new friends who has a different faith background even excitedly agreed to start reading the Bible with me. I’m so pumped to read alongside her and hear her perspective as we encounter Scripture with her fresh eyes and learn more about the character of Jesus who loves people where they are at and brings life-giving transformation. I could ramble on for hours on this soapbox of mine, but I actually think a much better use of your time and mine is for us each to find someone nearby who might be interested in reading the Bible together. Be warned: it just might change your life.

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