A Secret Society?

A friend’s email noted his surprise at how often he’s heard Christians—including church leaders—speak of Bible reading as a chore or an unhappy challenge. He mentioned this as he wrote about his delight in finding a partner for a fast-paced Bible read-through. I celebrated with him.

In our shared pleasure I realized how rare we seem to be. It’s as if we’re members of a secret society: the “We like God” clan. The society is wide open but, despite incredible benefits, it remains poorly enrolled.

All Christians, in fact, should be members—given the Romans 5:5 promise that the Spirit has poured out God’s love in our hearts. But that love seems muted or missing in too many cases. A key indicator is that many, if not most, professed believers don’t read their Bibles with any delight or sustained devotion.

Some may ask, Why this focus on the Bible as an indicator of our response to God? Isn’t the linkage too narrow? I often hear, for instance, of many non-readers who claim to love God deeply even if they pay little attention to the Bible.

That’s a conversation non-readers can take up with God himself: he alone can process claims with a soul-searching ability we don’t have. I do know that love always finds a way to listen to one who is loved.

We also press this link because of Bible assumptions. Scriptures share God’s character and values—his attractive qualities—in sustained and tangible terms. This is especially conspicuous in the Old Testament periods of Josiah and Ezra where rediscoveries of lost Scriptures led to explosive responses. Bible exposure captivates searching souls.

So, too, in the New Testament Jesus dismissed claims of faith by a group who had “believed in him” but who rejected what he was saying—see John 8:30-59. In that encounter he eventually identified these “believers” as children of the devil! So professions of faith don’t always ensure true faith.

There’s no news in this, of course. Jesus said as much in his parable of the soils: “The sower sows the word” but most of the sown word/seed either fails to germinate or to prosper (e.g. Mark 4). The Word can be stolen, crushed, choked; but in some cases it will be fruitful, with multiplied growth.

By highlighting this reality—that not all professed believers delight in God’s word—we come to a crucial point.

Jesus isn’t angry when he’s ignored. He never begs for attention. In fact there’s nothing pathetic about how he presents himself—no pearls are cast before the crowds. He simply delights in those who delight in him and leaves it at that.

While gathering crowds wasn’t his aim he did, because of his compassion, feed thousands on a pair of occasions: one of these is reported in John 6. Yet even then some of the more vocal figures in the crowd tried to use his compassion as a lever: “We’ll follow you and even make you a king if you promise to feed us like this all the time!” Jesus responded by telling them to focus on his life as spiritual food rather than making physical food their big ambition. So the crowds soon evaporated.

There’s a lesson here. Jesus knows how attractive love is. He came to offer us his Father’s love, and to share that love in all he did. And if someone doesn’t find that love attractive it doesn’t change the reality that God’s love is, in fact, incredibly attractive! It only tells us that whatever a person or a crowd loves instead of, or in place of, God’s love is blocking their affective “heart-gaze” on Christ and his Father.

This brings us back to our secret society. Some of us have been stunned by God’s beauty revealed in Christ and presented in the Scriptures. Our faith is now working through love—with love being a response to his prior love for us. Nothing . . . absolutely nothing! . . . is more captivating than seeing and hearing Jesus saying, “Come to me, all you who are tired—who long for the real freedom of my embrace.”

We somehow were blessed with an insider’s awareness of his love and loveliness. Everything else is sawdust and popcorn by comparison.

So the invitation still stands: “Oh taste and see, the LORD is good!”

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2 Comments

  1. Judy

    It saddens me as well, Ron, to watch friends treat the Bible as a by product of their lives, showing no enthusiasm or attachment for the Word. But when a believer is found that shows fondness and curiosity for God’s Word then it fills us with hope and laughter and warmth. Our Lord is making His presence known and they are believing with all their minds, hearts and souls that God is good. I read this verse the other day and it just captured my thoughts. “O God, You are my God: earnestly I seek You: my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water… So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, and beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips shall praise You.”
    Psalms 63:1-3 This is where we meet God in His Word. Thank you for your thought provoking words. Judy

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