I'm a Bible toddler. When I started going to church I had no idea what it was about. As far as I knew, Peter, Paul and Mary left on a jet plane.
Because of this, I always wanted to go to Sunday school. On my way to the bathroom during adult service, I'd pass the ring of kids sitting cross-legged on the nubbly gray carpet. Inevitably, I'd drift closer to peek at the drawings, wishing I could plop down with the children Billy Madison-style. But I was too shy to sit, so I lingered on the outskirts, goofy, grown, and God-hungry.
One day Jonathan was teaching. He held up a page in a picture book and asked, "What is this?"
"The Bible!" the kids shouted.
"And what is the Bible a story of?"
Well that was a loaded question. If you'd asked me at any point in my life I would have shouted:
An epic myth all screenwriters base our stories on since Joseph Campbell!
But these are kids, so it had to be a good thing. I settled on the perfect response.
Jesus, I answered in my head, feeling smug and Christian-y.
"Love," Jonathan said.
The top of my head blew clean off.
A Love Story
The Bible is a story about love.
It's a manual, actually. One that uses God's love as an example, so that even those of us who grew up in crappy families eventually get an instruction book in life, after thousands of dollars of therapy and a string of poor relationship choices. (Not that I know anything about that...)
So how come I never heard it taught like that?
I spent decades thinking the Bible was a messily organized amalgamation of marriage tips, Jewish versions of fortune cookie sayings, Aesop fables, some dude's family tree, a town that sounds like a venereal disease, and a warning about haircuts.
Starring a bunch of hippies wearing Tevas while sustainably farming crappy land.
That the Bible as a love story was such a shocking revelation to me speaks to how skewed representations of the book have become. Humans are clearly missing the point.
And Christians need to take responsibility for that.
Tell the Real Story
We're doing a disservice to everything God intended when we lead with anything but love.
Are you using the Bible as a "told you so" more than a "good for you"? Are you regulating more than you're praising and uplifting?
This isn't an either/or question. It's one of degree and focus. Yes, sin and conviction and all that are vital, but, more importantly, so is remembering the point, the whole point of being on this big blue ball.
The point is: we are loved.
Don't let the human tendency towards superiority and condemnation obfuscate that message. (Like the word obfuscate does that sentence.)
I can vouch as a former atheist which type of message drew me closer to God, and which pushed me away.
The Bible deserves a better book report than the ones going around. It deserves to have its main message put first and foremost.
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