When I finally read the entire Bible for myself, I realized that I wasn’t going to find what I was looking for.
I thought it would be a detailed explanation of Christianity, containing passages on how the church should be organized and a guide to making perfect decisions, among other things. I wanted to read about this apocalypse I had heard so much about and to learn exactly how theology was supposed to work.
Instead, I found stuff like this:
Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Molek, for you must not profane the name of your God. -Leviticus 18:21
And unto Enoch was born Irad: and Irad begat Mehujael: and Mehujael begat Methusael: and Methusael begat Lamech. And Lamech took unto him two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah…. Genesis 4:18-19
And it keeps getting weirder. But that’s just the Old Testament, right? When I finally got to the new testament I was ready for Jesus to explain how things really work. But the New Testament just said stuff like this:
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Matthew 5:9
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27
“If you have two coats, give one away,” he said. “Do the same with your food.” Luke 3:11
Not helpful. How is a church supposed to divide it’s monetary resources between foreign and domestic missions? Exactly what year was it when Abraham and Sarah visited Egypt? How much should I tithe? Which church denomination should I join? Is there really something “wrong” with rock music? Which words are curse words?
It was frustrating for me to find out that the pages of the Bible didn’t answer any of the questions that Christianity had raised for me. But eventually the Bible raised its own questions. I noticed that the Old Testament was a beautiful story of God leading his people through difficult times, and loving them when they were imperfect. It’s not supposed to be read as a book of rules, but as a collection of old documents that, as a whole, help us understand who God is.
In the New Testament, a group of Jews who were hoping for a political leader to lead them to freedom were instead visited by a man who taught them to love their enemies and pursue virtue. This wasn’t what they expected. If I was disappointed in reading about Jesus, it’s because I, too, was looking for something else; I finally understood that I was supposed to be living out Jesus’ lessons before asking my own questions. Charity, kindness, and humility became my new priorities, instead of trying to answer every single theological question. (These are lessons that, I’m finding, will take more than a lifetime to learn.)
Am I learning from the Bible’s wisdom, or am I still looking for answers to the wrong questions?
(More articles at www.ThinkingThroughChristianity.com)