image courtesy of teethingsolutions.co.uk
Speaking with Christians here in Tanzania (many of whom are so in name only), I often find myself attempting to express the difference between reading the Bible for knowledge and reading it for obedience. I explain that, when it comes to Christianity, we’re far too intelligent to be so disobedient — that the Bible is, contrary to popular belief, not so difficult to understand that we must study it for years before we can begin to do as it says — or that we need to hire one expert to teach us what the good book means. I generally am asked to explain further, and this is one of the verses I offer:
“Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation…” — Philippians 2:14-15a
I don’t have to make use of my bachelor’s and master’s degrees to understand that I shouldn’t complain and argue. But I still do. If you don’t believe me, you can ask my wife. [Please don’t.]
Knowledge isn’t the answer, but is only useful towards (and for) obedience. Adding Bible knowledge to an already disobedient life is like sending someone to medical school who refuses to brush his teeth and wash his hands.
I’m afraid we claim to take seriously The Great Commission, but have stopped at the Holy Spirit. Here’s the way we often read it:
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. [Full stop.]”
What we often miss is this line, which immediately follows:
“… and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
In fact, we’ve horribly misunderstood The Great Commission when we don’t stress obedience. Making disciples requires that they learn to be obedient to Christ. And it doesn’t seem to be especially effective attempting to teach others to obey Jesus’ commands when we are not doing so ourselves.
I probably ought to stop complaining and arguing. And I have got to start brushing my teeth.
For more reading on this subject, see these posts: