Friday, August 15, 2014

Scripture in community

One of the thoughts that has been percolating around in my head for a few years is this: I believe that in the next few generations, the church will discover (is already discovering in some circles) that the key to following Jesus faithfully in our day is interpreting and applying the Bible in community.

Simple, right? 

But it's hard work when you actually get down to it. Building and maintaining community is a life-grinding process. When done well, it is incredibly life-giving as well. So in order to interpret and apply the Bible in community, one first has to be willing to do the hard work to live in community. 

For this to work, it also has to be a Christ-centered community. You can't just say that the local trap shooter's association is going to interpret and apply the Bible unless there's some common understanding that the Bible has some measure of authority over the group.

Second, it's critical that both "interpret" and "apply" are brought to bear. We've had groups interpreting the Bible for many generations. To the extent that those groups have failed to apply the Bible as well, they have been less than useless. Both study and action under the Bible's authority are critical.

Third, this is an ongoing pursuit, not a transitory one. Relationship -- with God and with humans -- takes time.

In light of all of these reflections, I was thrilled a couple weeks ago to be preparing for a Boundary Waters trip and to rediscover an amazing gift I was given this spring. The gift came from a group of guys with whom I was privileged to share an adventurous trip to Montana a few years ago. These guys bought me a Duluth pack -- a big canvas bag with shoulder straps, the traditional way to carry your gear in the Boundary Waters -- and inscribed the interior of the pack with their names and significant scripture verses. The Bible in community.

For your edification, here are the verses they shared with me:

Psalm 42:1
As a deer pants for flowing streams,
    so pants my soul for you, O God.

Luke 15:3-7
So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance."

1 John 4:21
And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Matthew 21:22
And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.

Romans 5:8
God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 

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