"Why don't you read the Bible?" I asked my friend.
He provided an initial list of excuses: boredom, familiarity, lack of understanding. Like most Christians, his Bible reading is spotty, inconsistent, and marked by frustration. To his credit, he is a literate person. Piper, Claiborne, Oberbrunner, Lewis, and a pair of Stanleys (Andy and Hauerwas) line his shelves. Peter and Paul, Mark and John, Moses and Isaiah have been relegated to footnotes.
Avoidance of the Bible concerns me. While the Bible remains atop the bestsellers list, it receives as much play time as a Rick Astley songs on my iPod.
Being a good friend and motley pastor, I interrogated his reasons. "You like stories, right? (You are, indeed, postmodern.) Why not read the Bible as a story? It starts in a Garden and ends in a City. In between, there are several episodes of crisis and intervention, which culminate on the Cross. Now the church carries the crisis intervention story into a Brave New World."
"But I have trouble understanding the Bible. You need a pastor to explain it. That's their job," he replied.
As a pastor/teacher, I understand the sentiment. I am to labor in explaining the text, but I can no more read the Bible for someone than change his beliefs. So I countered, "Who taught you how to interpret Rob Bell, Malcolm Gladwell, and the Stanleys? Does everyone write clearly except for God (and Shakespeare)? I'd like to think the basic meaning of Scripture is evident. Moreover, we have the promise of the Holy Spirit who guides us in all truth."
He nodded. And as we continued the discussion, the fundamental reason surfaced. He does not read the Bible because he struggles to be intimate with God. So he settles for third-party affiliates. This is a tragic and all too common affair.
I felt sheepish and over-simplistic, but I encouraged him to read the Bible. Such literacy cultivates intimacy.
NOTE: Inspired by a true story. I have changed names and modified dialogue to protect the innocent. Rick Astley never came up in the conversation with my friend. He never does.