“…I felt like my Bible was calling me. I felt this promise that if I read it, if I just read it like a book, cover to cover, it wouldn’t change me into an idiot, it wouldn’t change me into a clone of Pat Buchanan, and that was honestly the thing I was worried about with the Bible. If I read it, it would make me simple in my thinking.
” So I started in Matthew, which is one of the Gospels about Jesus. And I read it through Matthew and Mark, then Luke and John … and Jesus was very confusing, and I didn’t know if I liked Him very much, and I was certainly tired of Him by the second day. ” By the time I got to the end of Luke, to the part where they were going to … stretch Him out on a cross, something shifted within me … I remember sitting at my desk, and I don’t know what it was that I read or what Jesus was doing in the book, but I felt a love for him rush through me, through my back and into my chest. … I remember thinking that I would follow him anywhere … I loved Him, and I was going to follow Him. I think the most important thing that happens within Christian spirituality is when a person falls in love with Jesus.” —Excerpt from Blue Like Jazz, by Donald Miller
Are you worried, as Donald Miller used to be, that you’ll become “simple” in your thinking if you read the Bible? I’ve channel-flipped across enough “religious” TV programs to understand your concern. Who wouldn’t be worried if all we had to go on were the weird-eyed, poofy-haired men and women seen on many Christian networks? Fortunately, after a lifetime of involvement in churches and ministries (mostly as a volunteer;once as a staff member), I can assure you that the vast majority of Christians are not at all like the scary types seen on TV or often caricatured in movies. To be a Christian, in its original sense, simply means to be a follower of Jesus. So to be Christian in the sense originally intended is to be a person who does his or her best to live as Jesus taught and demonstrated. The word “Christian” carries so much baggage in our day and age that Raelene and I now prefer to be called “Christ followers.” That puts the emphasis back where it belongs — on Jesus — who summed up what it means to follow him with these words: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.”
Can you imagine what a fine place this world would be if we all worked at the second part of that sentence, let alone the first? For example, that would put a lot of left- and right-wing talking heads out of work, make comedians become more creative or get real jobs, and change the tenor of discussion in classrooms and living rooms all across the globe.
None of us on this earth is ever going to be perfect. No family, no church, no business, no government, no community organization is ever going to be perfect when it is composed of imperfect humans. The one who lived a perfect life on earth was Jesus. The reason he offers us forgiveness when we fall short of his perfection is that he loves us — you and me — more than we can possibly imagine.
If you’re curious about Jesus of Nazareth, I hope there’s something here that will encourage you to shut out the noise that surrounds talk about “religion” and place your focus squarely on Jesus. The best web page to start on is probably this: Books for Seeking Growth . That page is going to recommend you find a modern English Bible translation and read the New Testament books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John.
I really enjoy reading all of them at once, using “The NIV Harmony of the Gospels” by Thomas and Gundry. Matthew, Mark and Luke contain a lot of the same information, though not always in the same sequence. John’s Gospel adds information not in the other three. The Harmony puts all four accounts side by side, reorganizing them so that they are sequential. It’s a great way to get the full story of Jesus’s life, both from those who knew Jesus personally and from those who drew on the eyewitness accounts of his apostles and followers.
If you’re already a Christ follower, perhaps this section will serve as an introduction to new books or new ideas about faith-related subjects such as worship and prayer. Maybe something I’ve posted about tithing, womens’ roles, or another topic will serve as food for thought.