The Bible is hard to read. Really, really hard.
A good friend reminded me of this over dinner last week. Weâ€™ve never discussed religion in more than 20 years of acquaintance, so she surprised me with her account of trying to read the Bible cover to cover. â€œGenesis was OK,â€ she said, â€œbut then I got into Exodus and couldnâ€™t get out. All those begats.â€
A lot of people hit a dead end with the â€œbegatsâ€â€”long genealogical lists in the form of â€œAbraham begat Isaac, who begat Jacob, who begatâ€¦â€ ad infinitum. Others lose it in the minute description of different types of sacrificial offerings in Leviticus. Some read the accounts of war and treachery and decide (understandably) that the Bibleâ€™s not for them.
So allow me to pique your interest by saying that the Bible is chock-full of wisdom we can use in our daily lives. Thatâ€™s true not only of the â€œbigâ€ passagesâ€”the Golden Rule, Jesusâ€™ admonition to love your enemies, etc.â€”but in the ridiculously obscure.
As Exhibit A, allow me to cite this passage from St. Paulâ€™s letter to the church at Philippi:
I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I may be cheered by news of you. I have no one like him who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. All of them are seeking their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.
Maybe youâ€™re thinking, who cares. No one could blame you. Itâ€™s about travel plans for an itinerant preacher 20 centuries ago.
But look more closely. I have no one like him who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. This is St. Paul weâ€™re talking aboutâ€”one of the towering figures in early Christendom, a person of extraordinary zeal and commitment. Wouldnâ€™t he be surrounded with people of similar zeal? Or, at the very least, people who had learned to put others first, as Jesus directed?
Apparently not. In all his retinue, exactly one dude wasnâ€™t looking out for himself.
Sounds like the human condition, doesnâ€™t it? To quote Firesign Theatre, weâ€™re all bozos on this bus. Even the â€œmost evolvedâ€ have flaws and failings and shortcomings. We are all works in progress, and sometimes the progress doesnâ€™t look like much. And if this is true of Paulâ€™s inner circleâ€”people ostensibly more mature than we areâ€”maybe we can give ourselves more grace to be imperfect, to be bozos, to grow in Godâ€™s own good time.
The Bible is loaded with these tiny hidden gems. Iâ€™ll try to trot out more of them in the months to come.