The way we read the Bible affects the way we see the world. In his book, “The Bible Tells Me So”, Peter Enns tells us
“The Bible isn’t a cookbook…not an owner’s manual…not a legal contract…not a manual of assembly…When we open the Bible and read it, we are eavesdropping on an ancient spiritual journey. That journey was recorded over a thousand-year span of time, by different writers, with different personalities, at different times, under different circumstances, and for different reasons. In the Bible, we read of encounters with God by ancient peoples, in their times and places, asking their questions, and expressed in languages and ideas familiar to them. Those encounters with God were, I believe, genuine, authentic, and real. But they were also ancient – and that explains why the Bible behaves the way it does. This kind of Bible – the Bible we have – just doesn’t work well as point-by-point exhaustive and timelessly binding list of instructions about God and the life of faith. But it does work as a model for our own spiritual journey. An inspired model, in fact.”
If we read the Bible as a cookbook, manual, and legal contract, then we may insist: 1) the earth is young, and human history is about 6000 years; 2) genocide is God’s command; 3) God is fine with slavery, and discrimination against different genders & races; and …
If we read the Bible as our model, then we will continue the spiritual journey and “recognize something of ourselves in the struggles, joys, triumphs, confusions, and despairs expressed by the biblical writers”.
In his book, “A well-build faith: a Catholic’s guide to knowing and sharing what we believe”, Joe Paprocki writes:
“To believe is to enter into a relationship with another and to place our trust in that person. Until that happens, what we have is not a belief, but an idea. An idea evolves into a belief when it makes the leap from the head to the heart. Belief or faith is not blind. It is grounded in reason. We do not intimately love another person unless we have good reason (and some degree of evidence) to think that this person can be trusted. In the same way, we place our faith in God, not blindly, but based on good reason and some degree of evidence that God can be trusted. What is that evidence? Namely, the story of salvation history and the living witness of other followers of Christ. The Sacred Scriptures tell us the story of how God has been faithful to his people since the dawn of creation. The living witness of the saints – those canonized and those quietly leading lives of faith – provides us with credible evidence of the trustworthiness of God. Our own experience can also lead us to believe that God can be trusted. And yet, in the end, we have no proof, no guarantee – only an invitation to trust. And so, when we say in the Creed, ‘We believe in one God,’ we do so at our own risk. “
To help people to believe in Christ, we are to help them to trust God. The three main works for us are: 1) helping people to understand the meaning of the Scripture; 2) living out a faithful life; and 3) inviting people to experience God in their own life.
When I read Haemin Sunim’s reflection on the Christian faith, I feel that this Koren Buddhist monk’s faith is deeper and more profound than some of the Christian authors and pastors. In his book, “The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down”, Haemin Sunim writes about prayer:
“We don’t receive more love from God by asking for it. Rather, we awaken to the truth that God has always loved us unconditionally…In the beginning, our prayer takes the shape of, ‘Please grant me this, please grant me that,’ and then develops into, ‘Thank you for everything,’ and then matures into, ‘I want to resemble you.’ Eventually it transcends language, and we pray with our whole being in sacred silence. As my prayer deepens, I hear more of His voice than my words. As my humility grows, I feel more of His love overflowing in my heart. As my mind quiets down, I sense more of His presence in every moment.”
I appreciate that Haemin Sunim has clearly shown us the different stages of our spirituality as we continue to seek and grow in prayer.
As a church planter building a missional community, I like to read books on church planting. In his book, “The Honest Guide to Church Planting”, Tom Bennardo gives us a good reminder:
“…with all the emphasis these days on missional community, be careful that serving in the name of Jesus doesn’t become a substitute for articulating the cross of Jesus. One of the missional community strategy’s trends has been that a lot of good service happens, but it doesn’t always translate into transformed lives or repentance from sin. Missional community activity needs to be attached to message delivery. If it doesn’t, it devolves into social gospel.”
I have ministered in churches of different denominations. I found that each denomination has their own emphasis on being a missional community. I invited one denomination to feed the hungry while I encouraged another to give more attention to people’s souls.
In my opinion, Tom reminds us a missional community needs to offer people both good service and message. Good service and message are attached to each other.
We are spiritual. To grow our spiritual life, we need to practice spiritual disciplines. In his book, “The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down”, Haemin Sunim points out that
“Spirituality must be practiced not just in solitude but also among people. Open up to people around you and feel connected. This is the true challenge of spiritual practice. “
When we are in solitude, we open our hearts to ourselves. We listen to our own voice and the voice of the Spirit. We open up to people around us, we listen to each other’s voices. Then, we will discover that we are actually connected to the same voice of the Spirit. The discovery of our deep connection is one of the main goals of our spiritual practices.
The challenge is that we do not want to have that level of connection with both the Spirit and each other. We do not want to follow the voice of the Spirit. We hate and fear facing our true selves. Therefore, we do not want others to know our true selves that we do not like.
In the end, the challenge is to embrace and love who we truly are. The beginning of our transformation is to know that we are the beloved ones. In love, we have no fear of opening up to people around us.
Is this challenging for you to believe that you are the beloved one?