Bile and Bibles
There is a sense of hyperbole to the click-bait title. Yet there is a significant connection between bile and Bibles these days. So hear me out. Almost all of us have heard somebody reading, quoting, or teaching from the Scriptures and disagreed strongly. That someone is always on the other side of a sovereignty, eschatology, or same-sex marriage debate. You hear them quote the Scripture and your stomach tightens into knots. You revert to tunnel vision. Sometimes you might even taste bile.
We have been raised to think this reaction is justified because we are "being Berean." But there is a problem. The Bereans went to check after Paul was done speaking. They did not chase him out of town like the Pharisees. They did not interrupt in the middle of his message or completely crash the Q&A time. They were polite enough to let him finish. The analogy can only go so far. But I want to show were it touches us today.
Because of personal bibles and smart-phones the leash on a bible quote is about 15 seconds. By that I meant it takes 15 seconds to read a passage, form our opinion, and make judgments about every other opinion. We will immediately stop listening, discussing, etc. to focus on that one passage. In these moments, we have competently ignored the person speaking. Or worse we might even cut them off. If it is a youtube video or podcast it might be paused. If a blog, the page might be closed. We feel the raging indignation that someone would dare to use the Scripture in a way that disagree with our (biblical) opinion.
Do not fear. I am not here to endorse some blind pluralism. We do need to be critical of individuals quoting the Bible. Not all interpretations are equal. Healthy disagreement is bound to occur. But Christians in this modern world need an extra dose of James,
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger (Jam 1:19)
The point I am trying to make is that this includes discussions about the Bible. We need not fear conversation with people who disagree with us. In fact these are the roots of thoughtful engagement.
Here is where I tie this all into my liturgical experience.
I have had a chance to practice this type of listening a lot recently. I have not taught or preached in a church setting in over a year. This is quite the change for me. Our weekly liturgy has had a profound impact on my listening skills. Every Sunday is an opportunity to listen to God's word being read. I get the opportunity to slow my mind down and just enjoy the pure word. I don't get fickle over translation differences. I certainly do not read along with the individual. I am merely listening. Then someone stands up to deliver God's word. I keep my Bible closed and I listen. I let each sentence complete itself. I let each argument finds its conclusion. This is not my turn to speak. Neither out loud nor in my head. Only after we stand and take the benediction is my mind allowed to go to work. Any self-control of the mouth demands self-control of the mind. And the liturgy helps me with both.
Quick to hear. Slow to speak. Christians must stress this verse in their discussions of the Bible. Whether among those of different denomination or different level of progressiveness. And certainly among the non-believers. Christians should be resoundingly secure in their God and His word. There is no excuse for being rude or harsh when speaking to one another. That is not the same thing as "sugar coating the truth." That speaks to make something easier to swallow. I am suggesting we keep discussions as actual discussions and not monologues starring our opinions.
Unfortunately, many of us handle Biblical discussions the same way Peter handles a sword. We are valiantly slicing off ears as we attempt to defend God. All the while He is assuring us that He could call down a legion of angels. Our God does not need us. He certainly uses us but not as arrogant prophets. He uses humble servants.
Every week the liturgy reminds me to become that humble servant. In principal by shutting up. By listening. By thinking less of myself and more highly of my bother (1 Cor 14; Rom 14). So I encourage you to try this out. Close your Bible when the word is read and preached. Soak in the words. Be quick to hear. Learn patience. Learn some grace. Then speak. Try this in the confines and security of the church. Then take that patience and grace out into the world.