This past year, I read the whole bible. Chronologically. Guided by youversion.com.
Like any good teacher, (well, any good early-2000s-No-Child-Left-Behind-reading-test-prep teacher), I closed the book and pondered the main idea.
Reflection #1 – Complicated Work
The bible is a collection of 66 smaller books. There are many different authors (known and unknown) and genres of writing. Add to the mix that the Old and New Testaments were written in completely different eras and it was a bit of a challenge to find a common thread throughout the entire work.
Reflection #2 – Below the Surface
You know when you meet a person and at first they seem amazingly wonderful? Their jokes are hilarious, their skin is flawless, clothes are quirky…they do no wrong. The more you get to know them reveals layers and nuances that don’t always seem to match your first impression. That’s how I felt reading the bible from front to back.
But reading this way was a new experience for me. Earlier, when I was going through some sort of teenaged angst, I would close my eyes, flip through the pages of my bible like I was spinning a globe, then stop and point to a random verse. God was supposed to speak to me through every verse of the bible, so why did it matter to which I pointed? As a Christian, I should be able to find meaning in it, right? Usually I would end up like Liz Lemon, trying to stall at her ex-boyfriend’s wedding, and I would hit the genealogies or someone worshiping another asherah pole.
Let’s be real. There’s some crazy stuff in there. Violence, rage, debauchery, jealousy, sexual…craziness. And that’s just the major leaders of the faith.
How do I make sense of all this? Why weren’t all the leaders of Israel like Mother Theresa and Gandhi? Shouldn’t they just be caricatures of perfection if they were chosen by God?
And God’s actions sometimes seemed inconsistent. How do I reconcile mass murders? And doesn’t He seem to sometimes contradict Himself?
Reflection #3 – More questions than answers
In some ways, REALLY reading the bible all the way through developed more questions than answers. It didn’t necessarily make faith easier or more clear. Topics for which I was previously able to give easy answers are now open for discussion. Homosexuality, polygamy, evil, worship, sacrifice, talking donkeys… Seriously. I want to talk about this stuff.
And the main idea is…
But yet, I still came to a conclusion. One that (honestly) surprised me.
God is good.
I know what you’re thinking. Really? After all that?
Good may seem an overly simplistic word for God. Like, on a scale of 1-5, good would be a 3. Hershey’s kisses are good. Not awesome, but if that’s the only chocolate in the house, it’ll get eaten. This season of The Office is good. Not hilarious, but if it’s on I’ll watch it. The color tan is good. Mildly pleasurable.
In the case of the Bible, good means making things right, of a moral value. Just.
Good doesn’t always mean pleasure for us. It’s good that I see the dentist, but never pleasurable. It’s good to clean the house, but not fun… ever. It’s good to help someone else, but goes against every selfish instinct I’ve tirelessly nurtured.
When God made the world, he commented at the end of each day, This is good. Not just mildly pleasurable. Not like He said, Ya know, I could’ve really gone crazy with my plant-making, but I’d grade this fern a C-.
More like, This is right. Balanced. As it should be. Good.
But God is also not just a scale of justice. Not a puppet master. He consistently works through relationship. The Jewish nation. Jesus. Holy Spirit.
So, God is also love. He seeks to restore goodness (right-ness) through love.
And God asks us to do the same. Restore goodness through love.
Clearly, I haven’t explored the depth, breadth, and scope of the Bible’s meanings and mysteries. Obviously, this is just a small revelation from reading it through once. Most certainly it requires another look. My goal this time is to have more of those conversations about the tricky parts. Dive into the details, come what may.
Doing the journey.
P.S. God is not a white man.