“And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”
Most people aren’t going to read the Bible. They will, however, be reading us.
And that’s a scary thought. I’ve given a lot of time in the past to wrestling with the harder passages of Scripture, such as some portions of the Law and, well, the entire Joshua account. I’ve wondered if it’s possible to trust what Genesis says and not be a laughing stock to anyone who likes science. Things like that.
I stay with those texts for a couple of reasons, one of which is to grow deeper in the faith and honestly reckon with the Scriptures God inspired and through the church has given us.
I also pay attention to them because I want to talk to people about these hard issues. I know how difficult and unsettling the Bible can be (and I don’t mean in a I-feel-so-convicted-by-the-Holy-Spirit kind of way), and I want to be a source of comfort and a person with whom they can be honest about their doubts.
But in this pursuit, I’ve forgotten a very important truth:
Whether they’re reading the Bible or not, people are reading me.
They hear my words.
They see how I act.
And what’s see might be more unsettling than the most difficult parts of the Bible.
For people in my social circles, wherever they are, it’s going to be much harder to ignore me than it is to ignore the Bible. They don’t have to read Joshua. They don’t have to pay attention to the parts of the Law that legislate slavery but do not condemn it. As soon as they read something they don’t like, all they have to do is put that book back on their shelf or put it on eBay.
Not so with me–or any of us, for that matter. If you’re loving, then people at your office or in your social circles will be blessed. But if you’re resentful, mean, hateful, then it’s not like they can quit their job just to get away from you. (Okay, they could quit, but they most likely won’t.)
You’re their Bible, but you can’t be stuck back onto a shelf when you get difficult.
The apostle described us in a similar way: we’re letters from Christ, me and anyone else reading this who tries to love Jesus. What the Lord has to say to the world, he will say it through us.
That’s a staggering thought. We believe that in Jesus, God has reckoned with the sins and the evil deeds of the world. We believe the Resurrection was the sign that our sins were not only dealt with on the cross but that a new creation of grace and justice had broken into the old one.
My life has the potential to tell this story. Every day.
Or, it could tell a different one.
We could tell people that God loves them fiercely, not because they did something to deserve it or because eventually they’d clean up their act, but because they exist.
Or, we could refuse to share this because that particular person doesn’t fall within my social circle and we never make an effort to be around them.
Or because we don’t think there’s a good chance that person will convert to Christianity.
Or because they’re gay.
There are numerous stories we could share. And that’s both inspiring and terrifying.
You know your life.
What story are you sharing?