After some rather significant discussion about the last few verses of 2 Peter chapter 2, one of the ladies in our Sunday Bible Study class asked me “Why are you going here? There are plenty of other churches out there.” Naturally, I had a reply to her question. Once my reply was offered the discussion continued. At the end of the class she came up and attempted to explain her question and asked again, “why are you going here.” I looked at her and simply pointed to the teacher and said, “Because of him.”
I enjoy our class leader. He’s smart, well rounded in the full context of scripture and not afraid to tackle tough questions. That aside, the interesting part of the ladies question and its implication got me thinking. Is it necessary for us all to believe alike in order to study and worship together? If we all thought the same thing and saw scripture through the same eyes, what value is there in that? Who gains anything by pooling like-mindedness? Is there nothing more to learn from the biblical text? Has it all been mined? If so, why do theologians continue to write books? Why are new commentaries being printed and old ones revised? Is it necessary that we all drink from the same well when it comes to some of the thorny issues of the biblical text?
It’s important that lively and pointed discussion take place when it comes to scripture. My beliefs today are not at all what they were ten or fifteen years ago, nor should they be – If I’m not growing than shame on me. I’m reading a book now that’s stretching my understanding of the Gospels. I’m not in agreement with everything the author says, but I can appreciate his position and it causes me to think as I read the four Gospels and seek to understand their message. To me, that’s what growth is all about.
If we look at the ministry of Jesus we can see significant changes in how his ministry unfolded and not always for the better, I might add. When first starting out, it seemed all would flock to his teaching and when he called the Twelve they responded without the least hesitation. However, as the hands of time moved along, his ministry became more and more controversial. Not in his message, but in how his message was received. For many of the religious leaders it was negative. For the Twelve it was often bewilderment turning to “now we believe.” That’s how we are at times. In the beginning of our faith we soak it all up like a sponge and then we begin hearing different applications of the text, read different authors, maybe take a seminary class or two and find that the fields are fertile with challenging ideas and they push us to come to terms with our original belief system. We should not question things because we don’t believe; we should question things because we want to believe. We want our faith to be just that our faith. Let’s not be interested in going along to get along. Let’s seek to be challenged and to come to terms with the message of the text ourselves.
When we read scripture and attend Bible studies, we should want to think, to noodle, to ponder the text and dissect it so we not only understand it, but find out how to apply it to our life. There are times when we will look but don’t see, hear the words but don’t hear the message. There are those moments when, like the Twelve, we can hear Jesus saying, “Where is your faith?” or “Do you not understand that I was not talking about bread but about the leaven of the Pharisees?” Yes, let’s choose to have our mind engaged as well as our heart. To have the text pierce not only our emotions but our understanding so we walk away from the text with both wonder and wondering.