Reading and obeying

I would like to share a highlight for me today. Although there were various highlight especially Dave Bookless’ presentation on Planetary Boundaries.

CB Samuel spoke on “Believing and Living”. From the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), he highlighted how people read and respond to the Bible. In response to the Lawyer’s question as to how does one inherit eternal life, Jesus asked the lawyer, “What is written in the law, how do you read it? (25). All the characters in this biblical account know what is written in the law, the important question is, how do they read it? Or maybe how they (and we) respond to it? Do we obey it or not? CB suggested 7 readings of the word of God based upon their responses to the injured man.

This is my take on CB’s talk.

Firstly, there is the blessing reading. The Priest knew all the passages in the Law that told him that he was special, he was important and so important that he shouldn’t touch the dead. This man looked dead. This was a blessing. The law gave him the opportunity not to get involved. The law blessed him. his reading was all about him.

CB mentioned that their are many Christians like the priest. There may be awful suffering in the world and people starving but God is in the business of making us feel good about ourselves. The bible tells me “I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” Apart from the dodgy exegesis, taking over a promise to Israel for an individual Christian it focuses on me not the world.

Secondly. There is the job description reading. The Levite was a carer, his role was to serve in the temple and care for those there. If the man had been beaten up in the temple, he would have cared for him. But because this was outside the temple it wasn’t the Levite’s problem. He was absolved from helping.

CB related this to many NGOs and their workers. The NGO and its workers want to serve the poor, they want to involve themselves in the communities where the NGO is sent. However, It is only the poor in my project that is most important. This is a job description reading of the law. Compassion Is a job not a vocation. This is a challenge for NGOs and their workers.

Thirdly, he mentions a Ritualistic reading. The robbers were probably Jewish although there are those who say they were labourers building the temple but this is unlikely as the temple had been completed a long time before Christ. They knew the law but ignored it. Their reading of the law said, you can do your religion and live how you like. This is a ritualistic reading of the law.

Once again CB reflects on this reading, asking whether church members do this type of reading by living in contravention of the will of God but feel that God will still bless them because they do their religion; go to church, raise their arms in worship, etc. This is the ritualistic reading of the law.

Fourthly, there is the professional reading. The Innkeeper was man who received this injured man and cared for him but at the end of the story, he is reimbursed. He was compassionate, he did a good job, he was willing to accept this man into his inn even those he was not qualified but he was willing. But this was his profession, he charged for his services.

Both within the church and within the NGO there is this reading present quite often. There is a danger that we become professional Christians, our compassion is our job. Compassion should be part of our being not part of our job.

Fifthly, there is the Intellectual reading. Although the Lawyer was not part of the parable, his reading is quite obvious, it is for intellectual stimulation. He was interested in hearing the teachers’ perspective on the law. Jesus makes this clear when he asks, “what is written in the law”? If it is clear in the law, why is he asking Jesus. He loved studying and discussing the law, the reading of the law but was reluctant to put it in to practice.

This intellectual reading of the law is common among Bible college students and theologians. They are also in the Church. They are the people who love studying and discussing the word. This is not bad, however, it is negative when this reading does not lead to caring then this is intellectual and truncated.

Penultimately, there is the Obedience reading. The law is there to be obeyed. This is the reading of the Samaritan. The Samaritan, as did the Jewish people, knew the law. The Pentateuch was accepted by the Samaritans and so the Samaritan knew the injunction to care for the poor and vulnerable and he obeyed.

The final reading of the law is what we could call the incarnational reading of the law. Jesus not so much obeyed the law, but, in his own being and action, he fulfilled the law. In Luke 4:18 Jesus says that the Spirit of the Lord is upon him. This is the incarnational reading of scripture he lived out the meaning of Scripture in his own being and life.

So how do I, how do we, read scripture? Is it a blessing, job description, ritualistic, professional, intellectual, obedience or incarnational reading of Scripture?