The first time I ever read the Bible cover to cover was in 2009. I’d been in church since 1990, so I knew most of the stories and had heard most of the verses. So even though I didn’t read much of anything I hadn’t read or heard before, the context added so much to each story.
I got a better picture of the whole heart of God instead of just seeing glimpses of pieces. Having the whole picture changed everything. my faith was transformed from a sweater that kept me warm, or a parachute that saved me from death, and was transformed into the lens through which I see the myself, others, and the world.
Reading the Bible and gaining a new understanding of its stories and emphases…
1. Gave me a progress report on my spiritual health.
I was baptized when I was 8, and I never really looked back. Unlike many of my friends, I never strayed far in my behavior. I never drank before I was 21, I never tried any drugs, and I was a mostly good student.
As a high schooler I helped lead the middle school youth group. At 19, I started leading worship for a youth group. At 20, I started leading worship for the main services. At 23, I joined my first church staff. I felt like I knew my purpose and where I was going. At 27, I finally read the entire Bible for the first time, and I realized how much I needed to grow still.
I learned that God was more interested in what I was for rather than what I was against.
Before-Whole-Bible, I measured my spiritual health by what I was able to abstain from. After-Whole-Bible, I measured my spiritual health by my compassion, empathy, mercy, and love for others.
Measuring my health by the things I was for…
2. Gave me new passions, desires, and priorities.
I was content in my life back then. I had a loving wife with a baby on the way. I was part of a church that was healthy. I had deep and meaningful relationships with all kinds of people. I had a job that provided many opportunities for professional and personal growth. I was on the path to success.
Once I discovered God cared about my love for the defenseless, poor, needy, orphaned, and hopeless more than he did my worship or tithes, my priorities and passions were realigned.
I became very passionate about justice. I became passionate about caring for the poor. I became passionate about the practical aspects of the Gospel. My wife and I both began dreaming of ways to have impact in the places we thought were most important to God.
She began working as a doula for pregnant moms, learning the craft so she could serve teen, lonely, and scared moms. I returned to college so I could have a better understanding of how to help bring about more social justice.
Speaking of social justice, reading the whole Bible…
3. Gave me a passion for political understanding and change.
Most people I know think I’m fairly liberal, and I don’t think that’s a mischaracterization. When people ask me why I’m so liberal, I always respond with a smirk and, “Because I read the Bible.”
It only gets a laugh about half the time.
The statement is true, though. I agree with the Church at large that it is the responsibility of the Church to help bring about social justice.
Where I differ, and my liberalism comes into play, is that I believe we should use every means necessary to bring it about. That means we use our own hands, time, money, and our votes to bring about justice. And it was reading the Bible that convinced me of that. Really.
God’s special consideration and advocacy for the poor and marginalized is impossible to ignore throughout the Bible. His judgement against Sodom and the Israelites was the same:
Sodom’s sins were pride, gluttony, and laziness, while the poor and needy suffered outside her door. She was proud and committed detestable sins, so I wiped her out, as you have seen. (Ezekiel 16:49-50)
When you lift up your hands in prayer, I will not look. Though you offer many prayers, I will not listen, for your hands are covered with the blood of innocent victims. Wash yourselves and be clean! Get your sins out of my sight. Give up your evil ways. Learn to do good.
Help the oppressed.
Defend the cause of orphans.
Fight for the rights of widows. (Isaiah 1:15-17)
It was after reading verses like these that I began to understand I needed to devote everything within my power to help protect the people our society forgets.
If you haven’t ever read the Bible, or if you haven’t read it in awhile, you can start small. We created a 10 day reading plan that takes less than 5 minutes each day to complete.
That’s one of the beautiful things about the Bible, it can change your life on any day you give it the chance.