It can be helpful to “read between the lines.” For example, let’s say your employer sends out a memo saying, “I need a volunteer for a project. Janelle and Tom helped me on the last one.” You may guess he is hinting that you—or anyone other than Janelle and Tom—should volunteer this time. The memo doesn’t say that, but you are— no doubt correctly—reading the unspoken words between the lines.
Sometimes, though, reading between the lines backfires. Your tennis partner tells you she’ll pick you up at 6:00 for a practice session at the park. Knowing her, you figure that means 6:15. So, when she honks right at 6:00, you are still clearing away dinner and haven’t begun to look for your tennis racket.
Have you ever caught yourself reading between the lines of the Bible? I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. In fact, I think it’s called “interpretation” and “application,” which are really good things, if you do them in a valid way. The problem is, we do too much misinterpreting and not enough valid applying.
Let’s get real. Most of us (even die-hard, born-again Christians) believe—deep down inside—that some of the Bible is out of touch with reality.
We read: “Do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also” (Matthew 5:39 NIV).
and think: “Jesus must want me to be weak and passive. That’s not healthy. Besides, it’s giving in to evil. Shouldn’t I be fighting evil?”
As a result, very few of us even consider doing what Jesus said.
And how about this—we read: “Love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked (Luke 6:35 NIV).
and think: “I know this is right, and it’s awesome how Jesus forgave the soldiers who were crucifying him. So I try to forgive the people who have hurt me, but it doesn’t seem to work for me.”
As a result, we fall into discouragement. We conclude there’s something wrong with us—or that the Bible is wrong for expecting us to forgive the way God does.
Confused. Discouraged. Inadequate. Have you ever felt this way, as a Christian? I sure have. In fact, these feelings lurked beneath the surface of my life until I reached my mid-thirties. At that time I met God in a new way and my heart was flooded with love and hope. He also led me to some people for whom the Bible was a fountain of life.
The Bible—not a stumbling block, but a stepping stone—that’s what I would like to explore with you for the next several months (same format, same style of writing–just more practical). Let’s see how life-changing God’s Word becomes as we interpret and apply it in valid ways.
Making It Personal
- Would you like the Bible to start making more sense?
- Do you want to be able to be and do what you see in the Bible? Would God ask you to do anything that’s not possible?