Someone recently posed a question as part of a research project: “What, if anything, bothers you about the Bible?,” he asked. My reply: “Verses.”
OK, I understand that it’s helpful to organize a huge book in such a way that certain passages can be found easily. But I think we humans, with our natural love for formulas and equations, have taken it too far. Somehow chapter and verse references have become as sacred as the words themselves. Of course they’ve been a staple of sermons, books, debates and such for decades. And now they show up on everything from t-shirts to high profile athletic face paint. Is that a good thing?
Here’s something that Bible scholars and teachers know: Taken by itself, there’s a chapter / verse combination to support just about any position a person can conceive. Some of those positions – even the spiritual sounding ones – are unbiblical. More importantly, they’re often diametrically opposed to the nature of the God who wrote the very book. Nevertheless we’re expected to accept whatever can be backed up with a reference.
The Christian journey is all about a relationship with God. And yet it’s seemingly OK to take something God said completely out of the context in which He said it, isolate that statement from everything else He said, and use it as the basis for life’s deepest convictions. Sorry… I wouldn’t treat even a casual acquaintance like that, so it certainly doesn’t work for the most important relationship of all.
Instead of chapter and verse, I want to know the One who made those statements. I want to become so intimate with Him that I understand His intent, His nuances… indeed His heart. Sure, I’ll keep my Bible with the verse references in it. (I have no choice.) But for the most part I’ll ignore them, and treat the Word of God like a living, breathing Friend.