What is “The Word” to you?
I have a question for you today. I’d like to ask: “what ‘The Word’ is to you?” For some, when I say “The Word”, you don’t have understanding of what I’m referring which if you’ve never heard before is OK. For others of you, you know when I’m referring to “The Word”, I’m likely referring to the Bible. Yet, even for those, it likely has different meanings to many. Today, let’s take a brief look at some of the potential meanings. Please recognize that these are simple my thoughts for which I don’t profess to be a theologian or expert Bible teacher.
Prior to my doing so, I’d like to tell you a story. It’s a story about myself and reading. You see, early on in life, I wasn’t much of a reader. It was likely partly influenced by the fact that I was pulled out of class in 2nd grade to go down and spend special time learning to read (remedial reading). Then, as I entered high school, I had to have special testing for the admittance to college prep English as there was concern I wouldn’t be able to handle it. Yes, I still have those test scores at home as a keepsake.
While I don’t necessarily condone my behavior, the way the story goes, I don’t think I read an entire book until my 30s. Going back to high school, the way I got through those college prep courses was to get the “cliff-notes” and call a friend up each evening who would tell me the highlights of the reading. Looking back, this was a bit of laziness; however, it was also a bit too much belief around my not being able to read.
Then, when it came time to being admitted to one of the top Engineering colleges in the nation, I barely skated by with my SAT scores. Candidly, the admissions team took a gamble on me for which they took me to lunch my Senior years and told me paid off. So, as you can see, early on in life, I wasn’t real motivated to read. Additionally, many of you might now have a better understanding of my grammatical errors routinely in writing.
So, going back to our question: “what is ‘The Word’ to you?”, I would have to say the first 30 years of my life it was something that sat on my shelf and I’d occasionally pick up out of curiosity. Today, however, it’s much different. Prior to my sharing, I’d like to run through a few observations of how one might see “The Word” today in relationship to answering the question.
- Atheist – For those who have no belief a God, The Word has very little significance in their life. In fact, they may despise The Word and be more characterized as rebelling against it.
- World Religions – For many of these folks, they have their own book which may or may not include parts and pieces of the Bible. These would not be characterized by fully engaging the Bible’s teachings. Some might even be hostile to the Bible’s teachings.
Given these two, I would anticipate the majority of my reader to call themselves “Christians” and to fall in one of the following categories:
- Fictional History Book – While some of the stories may be true, the Bible is more characterized by fictional stories that didn’t really happen. For example, was Jonah really in the belly of a fish for 3 days or is this a fictional story with some type of symbolic meaning. For those who believe this way, they often haven’t spent much time reading the Bible and don’t really have a strong desire to do so.
- Man’s Interpretation of God’s Word – These folks believe The Word was inspired by God in it’s writing; however, man is flawed and was the scribe. Like the fictional folks, these people may have difficulty believing the literal interpretation of the entire Bible. For example, was the earth really created in 6 days? Or, was Moses “smoking crack” when he thought he saw God at the burning bush? For these folks, they might look at the Bible was some general guidelines by which to live life; however, really haven’t spent much time reading it.
- Rule Book/Biblical Principles – These folks may believe that the Bible is the “authoritative and inerrant Word of God” meaning it is without error and is life’s instruction manual. While they might wrestle a bit with man’s interpretation of what’s written at times, these folks believe it actually came from God and we should do our best to live by the standards outline within the text. So, things like the 10 Commandments are “biblical principles” we should live by and when we live outside these boundaries there are consequences. These people may read a bit more often; however, it’s coming from a place on “rule following”. They want to make sure they are doing everything right.
- New vs. Old Covenant Followers – Unlike the “rule followers”, these people believe Jesus did away with most of the rules in the Old testament. Thus, they appreciate the Old Testament as an historical text; however, they tend to focus more in their reading on the New Testament. Old Testament rules, traditions, or principles don’t necessarily apply unless Jesus specifically mentioned them in the New Testament. We’ve seen much of this debate in the open media over the past few months. Again, these people generally read their New Testament as a history lesson and, potentially, gain some inspiration or occasional Spirit led insight.
- Living and Breathing – These folks believe the Bible is the “authoritative and inerrant Word of God”, that it has historical context, and “through the Holy Spirit” comes alive in us today. Again, this category has many variations; however, they believe God can and does speak directly to our hearts through His Word. People in this category may view the Bible was a “love letter” from God. One which He’s continually revealing something new that draws them into a closer relationship with Him. For some, God can provide very specific direction to one of His followers through The Word. Generally, folks in this category have started to develop a hunger for reading The Word as they know its value in developing intimacy with our Creator. Thus, they become daily readers of His Word.
With thousands of religions and even denominations within the Christian faith, this list in no means is exhaustive and is greatly simplified. That being said, I anticipate generally, you may find yourself in one of these categories. Now, let’s pick back up on my own personal story.
In my 30s I began to pick up the Bible with a bit more frequency. Because I hadn’t read it personally much to that point, I likely would have said I was in Category #4; however, I couldn’t really tell you why. Push comes to shove, you likely could easily sway my thinking toward Fictional early on. Than, as I began to read more regularly, I began to become much more “literal” in my beliefs and likely became a bit too judgement settling in more so as a “rule follower” (Category 3). Some may have began to see me as somewhat of an “arrogant” Christian.
Then, in my early 40’s, I was influenced a bit by what some might see as “new age” beliefs. While not exactly what I was describing in Category 4, I began to question the balance between “feeling” His Spirit and “did God really say?” At this point, my heart had begun to be captured, I truly was seeking to follow Christ; however, I was wrestling with “what is truth” and “isn’t really all about love?”
Now, in my mid-40’s, my experience would be more in alignment with Living and Breathing (Category 5). Psalms 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” While as a “rule follower” I appreciated this text, today as a Living and Breathing follower, I appreciate it so much more. Yes, I’ve discovered that the Bible has great historical context, contains Biblical principles by which we’re to live our lives, and God uses His Word to communicate directly with us for which has become the primary means for which I personal “hear God’s voice”. If you’d like to see examples of this, simply click on the Hearing God’s Voice category of my blog and enjoy reading. For now, I’m simply asking you to ponder the question: “what is ‘The Word’ to you?”
Finally, please note the progression of my reading the Bible and it’s correlation to an intimate, personal relationship with Our Heavenly Father. While I didn’t go into great detail, I think you can see how I’ve transition from nearly never reading the Bible to reading it daily with great anticipation today. Additionally, I’ve shared my personal story of struggling with reading so that you can also have an appreciate the transformation. God is transforming a man who use to never read a book toward one who now loves to read His Word daily. Please don’t interpret this as my boasting of my great work. Yet, I hope that you’ll see it as His work to draw me in closer to Him. I desire the same for you as well. May you too pick up His Word with great anticipation today!