People of the Book: Culture Shock

photo of child reading holy bible
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Years ago, I fell in love with the words of Scripture before becoming acquainted with their author. I was raised to value education, literature, and learning.  So as soon as someone pointed me to the Bible, I found it incredibly deep, rich, exciting and compelling, and studying it thoroughly became my passionate pursuit. Before long, I was convinced that the book contained much more than literature. It was a source of life-giving, sanity-restoring truth, leading me to the ultimate source of grace and truth, Jesus Christ. My devotion to the Word of God continues to this day, and will endure, I’m sure, until I cross over the great divide.

It is easy to overlook or take for granted the many ways that engagement with the Bible transforms the mind, the worldview, and even the way the brain works over years under its influence. I’m sure many of you reading this can relate. The stories, characters, and teachings of the Bible become such a part of the psyche that they influence every part of life. The protagonists feel like intimate friends, as we so often read of their exploits and imagine ourselves there, observing or even participating in the story.

We are listening in on Eve’s conversation with a beguiling serpent, or trudging up Mr. Moriah with Abraham and Isaac, carrying kindling for the sacrifice. We are mourning with Job, as he scratches himself with shards of pottery, or trembling next to Esther before the scepter of the king. We are with Ruth, gleaning in the harvest fields of Boaz, or with David, writing poetry by the springs of En Gedi.  We are with Jesus, fighting sleep as he cries out to his Father under the ancient olive trees.

The history of God’s people becomes our story, and we lay claim to their covenant promises. As sons and daughters of Abraham, we seek to take hold, like Paul, of “that for which Christ took hold” of us (Phil 3:12). We marvel at the excruciating beauty of Jesus’ life and the horror of a death that accomplished the redemption of the world. We receive the doctrines and admonitions delivered to the Church as our manual for Christian living amidst a crooked and depraved world. With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, even the fine points of Jewish law in Leviticus or the genealogies of Matthew can come alive and find relevance in our daily affairs.

I have come to realize that this makes people like me rather odd in a culture that heaps contempt on our ancient faith. We are strangers, aliens who seek “a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Heb. 11:16). In my own experience, even family members who have known me my entire life and are very dear to me do not relate to the vast landscape of biblical experience in my imagination, and that this is the lens through which I view all else. Like those returning from an exotic travel adventure, I can tell stories and show pictures, but there are some things each person must experience for himself or herself.

In the meantime, having been so impacted by my travels in the pages of the Book, I find myself with culture shock as I navigate American culture in 2018. I do want desperately to share my experience of the word of God with those who have never ventured into its magnificence. We all are commanded to be  witnesses of its reality. But we must share this awareness of another world gently and kindly, never letting it become a bludgeon, a battering ram or a barrier.  We share our stories, pictures, and experiences with our Lord and King in hopes that it will inspire and motivate others to embark on their own journey of discovery.

 

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