It’s our relationship with God that matters
Twenty-one per cent of church goers read their Bible daily according to the 2006 National Church life Survey.
I am a minister and Moderator of the Uniting Church and I am not part of that 21 per cent. In most weeks I could claim to be among the 43 per cent of Uniting Church members who read the Bible daily or a few times a week, but not always.
Should I feel guilty? Is this good enough for the person who is supposed to be a spiritual leader?
While biblical literacy is essential for Christian life and faith, I do not believe that the frequency with which one reads the Bible should be regarded as a way of assessing the robustness of a person’s faith.
It needs to be remembered that, for most of Christian history (and even in places in the world today), ordinary Christians have thrived and lived powerful lives of faith without personal access to the written Word.
Yet many of those people would be more biblically literate than countless Christians today who have a stack of Bibles in their homes.
The issue that should concern us is not about whether people read the Bible daily but rather whether they are being connected to the biblical story and experiencing a living relationship with God.
For many, the discipline of daily prayer and Bible reading is a significant way in which they nurture their relationship with God and that should not be discouraged. But it is not for everyone.
I read the Bible quite extensively, if not daily. I read many books and articles that draw on or fill out the biblical story. I read other books and articles, watch television, listen to the radio, have discussions about many issues and, as I do, I reflect on the connection or the disjunction with the biblical story.
I constantly dip into the Bible that is stored in my soul, imprinted on my brain and sometimes I go and check my recollection in the written version.
I am not good at the daily discipline of the quiet time for Bible reading and prayer and after many attempts I have accepted it does not work for me.
I try to swim a number of times a week and in that half hour of swimming I pray and I reflect on God’s word for me.
When I walk I pray; sometimes for the people around me, sometimes for the issues that face me or for the life of the church.
Sometimes, over the years, I have responded to the urging of the Spirit and found myself in Oatley Park or up Mount Rogers in Canberra; taking a walk in the Ku-ring-gai National Park or sitting by the harbour with Bible in hand ready for a conversation with God.
I once went and climbed Barrenjoey in response to reading the story of the transfiguration and I did it because I had the sense that Jesus was saying to me, “Don’t just read the Bible, live the Bible. Come up the mountain with me.”
As I drove there, as I climbed up to the lighthouse, I reflected on the biblical story and what it meant for me at that time.
Now it sits in my memory as a special time with Jesus. None of these are daily or weekly or even monthly events but often significant moments in my interaction with the biblical story and my journey with Jesus.
However we achieve it, our life is to be an ongoing conversation with God and what is important is not how often or how we do it, but rather that we find the way that works for us and God in making this relationship happen, recognising that in some manner it will involve prayer, it will involve interaction with scripture, it will involve discussion within the community of faith and beyond, it will involve reflecting on God’s response to the issues of our community today.
“So here is what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life — your sleeping, eating, going to work, and walking around life — and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.” Romans 12:1 (The Message)
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