“How do you read the Bible?”
I was getting my haircut, of all places, when I was hit with this question. “I know there’s something bigger out there,” she said, “but I have no idea how people read the Bible.” This was it. That opportunity every Christian is called toward, the chance to share my faith with someone genuinely interested. I laughed when she said it, because I understood. “Definitely don’t start with the genealogies,” I said. We went on to discuss the different books of the Bible, the various authors and theories on how to begin studying. But I made a critical error. I didn’t ask for her contact information. Aside from our conversation, I didn’t offer out any lasting support or friendship. I regret that.
I’ve been thinking a lot about her question since then. How does someone get into reading the Bible when they aren’t raised with it? How would I go about reading such an enormous, complex text if I hadn’t been led through it by family and educators all my life? For me, the answer comes from my own story.
I was raised with very little exposure to technology and the internet. It wasn’t until college that I found myself diving head-first into the mechanics and implications of social media, video games, and digital literature. As the years passed my journey through college took an unexpected turn as I wrestled daily with the role of technology in our lives. I changed my major to English. I used every research opportunity I could to further question how the internet was changing both the way we communicate and the way we learn. I took those questions back with me to church- and found myself back where it all started. How do you read the Bible in a way that’s relevant to your life? For me the answer can best be described using technology: virtual reality.
One thing that bothered me about how I often heard the Bible being read growing up was that it sounded like a mishmash of hand-picked verses woven together to fit whatever point the speaker was trying to make. They’d start with an argument and then find whatever verses fit it instead of drawing conclusions from how the verses were already working together. I tried reading the Bible that way. It in no way made me live like Christ. When I read the Bible now, I imagine myself wearing a virtual reality headset. I try to look through the words and into the world and messenger that they came from. I constantly ask “Why does it say this? How is this meant to be understood in my life?” Context is everything. There are many, many confusing sections of the Bible, especially when taken out and examined without the rest of it to inform what you’re reading. Put on that VR when you read. Try to look around at all of the moving pieces informing our biblical authors as they wrote. And most importantly? Start with Jesus. Everything else points to Him.