By Joe LaGuardia
Some time ago, I wrote a column on the Christian sub-culture (or underworld?) of premium Bibles. In it, I uncovered a whole new community made up of folks who love, review, purchase, swap, and talk Bibles. These are not just any Bibles, mind you–rather, they run the gambit from hand-bound, high-priced Bibles to reviews of Bibles you can get at the Dollar store.
I became ensconced with these videos because I, too, have always loved Bibles. When Cokesbury had a storefront in Atlanta, I would spend hours perusing all of the Bibles, Bible helps, and Bible gadgets (highlighters, rulers, maps, you name it). I did not know that others liked Bibles like I do. You know all of those introductions and translator’s notes that are found in the beginning of Bibles? I read those for fun.
There is, however, a big difference between reviewing and loving Bibles to actually reading the Bible. Smelling the leather of a newly, cracked-open Bible may be therapeutic, but only by reading the Bible–spending time with the Bible, studying God’s Word, listening to the Holy Spirit, and responding to the Spirit–makes any difference. The rest is just for fun.
My friends and I are not alone in this. A recent survey published by the Barna research group shows that the Bible still plays a central role in American households. Nearly half the people in our nation engage the Bible at least four times a year, and a third do so on a weekly basis. Over half of Americans say that the Bible informs their values, and nearly half say that the Bible has transformed their lives or have led to positive outcomes in the spiritual growth.
The Bible is also a way to witness to others: Over 60% of people claim they are interested in what the Bible has to say about current events, God, and about their lives or the lives of those around them. Christians should capitalize on this trend and bring up the Bible in conversation with non-believers–people want to talk about the Bible, wrestle with its content, and inquire about the good, the bad, and the ugly that one might find in its pages.
Christians who study the Bible and communicate its contents can be pivotal in helping people overcome their preconceived notions about Scripture and experience the Bible as the Good News God intended it to be. Christians also have an opportunity to correct the misinformed along the way.
There are times when I ask whether the love of Scripture can go too far. In a recent Youtube video, one of those Bible reviewers expressed their love for their Bible, even going so far as to say that they love their Bible as much as they love Jesus. As Bible-believers, we should never lose sight of what the Bible says about the Word–Jesus is the Word made flesh, and it is Jesus who has authority over us. The Bible, according to the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message, is the record of God’s revelation to us. And, as Arun Gandhi once noted, we who are People of the Book should never place the Book above people.
Our love of Scripture should not be an end to itself, and our study of Scripture should not be for the sake of studying alone, but to draw our hearts towards Jesus, our mind towards the things of the Spirit, and our actions towards helping our neighbors. There is such a thing as “Biblolotry,” and I have seen people who have abused others by taking the Bible out of context or failing to follow the Holy Spirit beyond the pages of scripture.
Barna’s research is a good reminder that we need to engage the Bible: It is good for us, it helps us grow in Christ, and provides the Holy Spirit with an opportunity to shape our values. It can also be a tool to help others experience Christ. We can love our Bibles–we should use them often and know them, inside and out–but our love should never exceed that love we have of the Lord and of the people He has placed in our lives. So read it, then minister; pray, then walk the walk, don’t just talk the talk.