What Is the Key to Understanding the Bible Correctly?

My wife and I drove to Chicago the other day. We had an interesting conversation about Christianity, the Bible, and faith during the drive. This conversation started with my wife saying she was over the Bible. Even though she had read it since she was a teenager, she was done with it. She was tired of how people were reading it and the meanings the were drawing from it. I completely understood what she was saying because I have even felt that way somewhat recently.

What did she mean?

Basically, people use the Bible to support what they already believe.

The Bible has been used to support capitalism and socialism.

The Bible has been used to support slavery and freedom.

The Bible has been used to support monogamy and bigamy.

The Bible has been used to support complementarianism and egalitarianism.

The Bible has been used to support war and non-violence.

The Bible has been used to support heterosexuality and homosexuality.

The Bible has been used to support Jews and Israel and to hate Jews and Israel.

The Bible has been used to support white supremacy and black liberation.

Pretty much whatever idea or ideology people have had they have found a way for the Bible to support.

What is going on here?

How are people able to do this?

They read the Bible literally.

They read a verse, a passage, or even just part of a verse and claim that these words literally support what they already believe no matter what the context of the verse says. And, even if the context does support their idea or ideology, they only take the text at literal, face value.

This is a significant problem.

I cannot stress how big of a problem this is.

So, what is the key to reading the Bible correctly?

Jesus gave us two commandments that perfectly sum up how we should read the Bible.

Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22.37-39)

In order to understand the Bible correctly, your reading of it must be grounded and rooted in love. If love is not the very foundation of every single thought you have regarding the Bible, then you are going to take away the wrong ideas from it. If a thought, idea, ideology, or viewpoint that you come up with from reading the Bible does not look, feel, and sound like love to every single person, then that thought, idea, ideology, or viewpoint is wrong.

The temptation for everyone who reads the Bible is to use love for the foundation of their reading but only for the people who look or think like them.

It’s not a coincidence that Jesus addressed this to.

Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5.43-45)

If your understanding of the Bible, if your reading of any part of the Bible, does not result in love for those who you deem your enemies, then you are reading the Bible incorrectly. Your enemies are anyone you marginalize or ostracize. Your enemies are all the people that you think are going to hell. Your enemies are anyone that you treat as less than you.

Paul picked up on this very idea of Jesus. In Romans 12, Paul summarized the love for enemies and Jesus’ sermon on the mount in his own words. Paul also told us that we are all one. There is no Jew or Greek, rich or poor, male or female in Christ.

In other words, love brings everyone together, particularly those that are deemed to be antagonistic or opposite to each other.

So, if your reading of the Bible cannot and does not result in love bringing everyone together in Christ, then you haven’t yet discovered the key to reading the Bible correctly.

What Book Could You Read Over and Over?

In our company newsletter, we have a section where you can get to know new employees. We ask them a series of questions that reveal something about themselves. One of the questions is the title of this post.

I enjoy reading the answers. And, every time I read the answers I think about how I would answer the question. My answer would be short, but my explanation would be rather lengthy.

So, what book could I read over and over? The Bible.

In fact, it is the only book that I have ever read more than once. Cover-to-cover, I think I have read through the Bible at least 10 times now.

That is not to say I haven’t read other good books. I have read a lot of good books, and there have been a few that I planned to read again (Les Miserable being the most likely). But, it never happens. I think the reason is because I already know the plot. There’s no suspense. The element of surprise is gone. The first read is fresh, new, alive, exciting. The second is not.

So, how is it that I have spent the last six or seven years reading the Bible all the way through over and over? And, why is it that I will start again “in the beginning” on January 1?

Because every time I sit down to read the Bible I find some thought, some idea, some insight that is fresh, new, alive, exciting. But, these are not just random thoughts, random ideas, random insights. These are moments of inspiration and revelation from the Holy Spirit regarding my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And, since Jesus is alive, each new revelation of old words, words I’ve read numerous times, brings life to my spirit, my mind, and my body.

Perhaps you have never experienced the Bible this way. Perhaps you have never read it all the way through. Perhaps you have read the Bible cover to cover but only out of some sort of obligation so the experience was dull, boring, forced.

If one of the above statements is you, and even if one of them is not, then I would like to invite on the journey through the Bible with me in 2017.

Check back tomorrow to see what the journey entails.