I grew up reading the Bible. King James Version at first. Then a daring move to New International Version in my teens.
I wasn’t sure what it all meant. Scriptures can be confusing. But I listened to the thoughts of my parents, my teachers, my friends.
I kept growing.
I kept reading the Bible. I still do. And I still listen to others’ interpretations.
But now I know that others don’t understand all the Bible either.
It’s not as easy to decode as some make it out to be. None of us have it nailed down. We do the best we can with what we’ve learned, with what we’ve seen, with what we’ve experienced.
That’s what Rachel Held Evans does, too, just like the rest of us.
She’s gotten bad press the past few years for how she interprets the Bible. But she loves the words and she loves God. Even though she wrestles with the words, like many of us, it’s in the Bible that we learn the stories about Jesus. And ultimately, about ourselves.
Rachel’s latest book, Inspired, is all about the Bible. About her love for it. She shares her wranglings, her quests, her discoveries. I recognize many of my own in hers.
“With Scripture, we’ve not been invited to an academic fraternity; we’ve been invited to a wrestling match. We’ve been invited to a dynamic, centuries-long conversation with God and God’s people that has been unfolding since creation, one story at a time. If we’re lucky, it will leave us with a limp.”
This book is different from her other books. It’s a collection of genres instead of a simple narrative. In one chapter she’s retelling a favorite Bible story. In another chapter she writes a poem. Yet another may be a memoir moment. Or an exegesis of a biblical text. I admit it’s not my favorite book of hers (I prefer her straight narratives). But it’s still worth reading.
Rachel doesn’t ask us to agree or disagree with her in this book. She’s just sharing where she’s been and where she is now. And like the rest of us, who knows where she’ll be next?
“I’m still learning, still getting things wrong. But sometimes God knows the kind of deliverance you need the most is deliverance from your own comfort.”
Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book. The first quote is long, but it’s one I love the most.
“Jesus didn’t just ‘come to die.’ Jesus came to live—to teach, to heal, to tell stories, to protest, to turn over tables, to touch people who weren’t supposed to be touched and eat with people who weren’t supposed to be eaten with, to break bread, to pour wine, to wash feet, to face temptation, to tick off the authorities, to fulfill Scripture, to forgive, to announce the start of a brand new kingdom, to show us what that kingdom is like, to show us what God is like, to love his enemies to the point of death at their hands, and to beat death by rising from the grave.
Jesus did not simply die to save us from our sins, Jesus lived to save us from our sins. His life and teachings show us the way to liberation. But you can’t fit all that on a bumper sticker.”
~ * ~
“So perhaps a better question than, ‘Do I believe in miracles?’ is, ‘Am I acting like I do?’ Am I including the people who are typically excluded? Am I feeding the hungry and caring for the sick? Am I holding the hands of the homeless and offering help to addicts?”
~ * ~
“To demand that the Bible meet our demands is to put ourselves and our own interests at the center of the story, which is one of the first traps we must to learn to avoid if we are to engage the Bible with integrity or care.”
~ * ~
“But their assurances, however sincerely intended, proved empty when, as a young adult, I started asking those questions for myself.
. . . Instead of bolstering my confidence in the Bible, its most strident defenders inadvertently weakened it.”
~ * ~
“The gospel means that every small story is part of a sweeping story, every ordinary life part of an extraordinary movement. God is busy making all things new, and life, death, and resurrection of Jesus has opened that work to everyone who wants in on it. The church is not a group of people who believe all the same things; the church is a group of people caught up in the same story, with Jesus at the center.”
~ * ~
“These questions loosened my grip on the text and gave me permission to love the Bible for what it is, not what I want it to be.”
* * *
My thanks to Net Galley
for the review copy of this book.
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