“The Bible is God’s letter to you,” and similar statements are common to hear in a variety of churches. I remember hearing this repeatedly while growing up in the Midwest. While the sentiment may be well-intentioned, it promotes a false understand of the object and intent of Scripture. It results in misunderstandings, and just plain bad theology, that cause the reader more doubt than certainty.
One result of a self-focused view of the Bible is a bad understanding of the function of prophecy in the Church today. Many view it as some sort of foretelling of events, when it is really the application of the Messianic to a contemporary world. Prophecy revolves around the Messiah. So, for Christians, that means prophecy foretold Christ for instruction and now looks back to Christ for instruction. When the object of prophecy is no longer Christ, but ourselves, then we go down the road of all sorts of radicalism and disappointment – as has resulted recently from the likes of self-proclaimed prophets.
Many of the discussions in which I have been involved over the years when discussing/debating various perspectives regarding the understanding of the Bible fall apart due to this basic misunderstanding of its intended object. That object is Jesus. The Christian view of the Old Testament collection is that it is all about the coming of the Christ and the New Testament view records his works and the subsequent expansion of the Church. One looks forward to the realization of love, the other pushes us forward in that realization. Both the OT and NT are intended to cause us to impact our friends, cities, nations, and world in a way that offers glimpses of the perfection of the kingdom of God. If our understanding of the Bible causes us to stay huddled to ourselves and falsely view ourselves as a faithful few, and create enemies of those who think differently, then we are making the focus about ourselves. We end up searching for secret applications and messages that are just nowhere to be found, unless we alter the meaning.
If we make the Bible a personalized letter to ourselves, then we will undoubtedly misread and misunderstand the intended purpose and message for which the writings exist. Rather than understanding, we will lift verses and concepts as if they directly apply to our modern context. When we do this, we are contaminating the message of Scripture and manipulating it into something it is not. While the Bible is able to be properly applied to our modern context and offer hope, salvation, and a view of how to live… and while it gives witness to God revealing Himself to man… it is not directly addressed to 2021.
If we are to move forward together as Christians through this time of trouble and division in the United States, then we must seek to return to a proper understanding of the foundation upon which our faith was built. We can not let our notions of individualism and self-indulgence transfer to our understand of God’s Word. It is not about you or me. It is not even about us as a community of faith. It is about Christ.