The headland between Totaranui and Goat Bay, looking South to Goat Bay and Waiharakeke
Here are three things which are related. Please bear with me.
1. A couple of days ago I finished reading 1 Chronicles. So many odd names, and so many lists! And so many contradictions and omissions and obvious glosses! It was a tough slog, but I got there. And my understanding of the Bible as a whole is greatly enhanced by the effort
2. A couple of days ago Clemency and I walked the short piece of the Abel Tasman track from Totarauni to Awaroa Inlet. We have walked this short piece of our favourite part of the planet dozens of times before, and the leg over to Goat Bay is easy peasy lemon squeezy: a very short, flattish jaunt around the base of the cliff. But, since we last did it, a landslide had taken out the track, and DOC has cut a new one over the top. Now it is a steep little 30 minute gutbuster to surprise us as we begin. It was a tough slog, but we got there. And our walk to the inlet and back was one of the best, loveliest, most joyous things we've done together in years.
3. Today I read a survey on Bible readership conducted by the Lifeway organisation. I was surprised to read that, of active church goers, only 20% claim to read their Bibles daily. I was surprised that it was so high. The wording of the survey ( a question which asks, for example, " I desire to please and honor Jesus in all I do. Yes/No" ) shows that it was designed by and probably answered by conservative evangelicals, that is by people who claim to hold scripture in very high regard.
I would suspect that the real, as opposed to the reported levels of Bible reading are actually lower than the Lifeway survey suggest. I think that across the whole spectrum of Christian denominations, they would be lower still. The fact is, most Christians don't read the Bible. Some of them read parts of the Bible but very few read all of it. I suspect that if you were to ask "have you read every word of the Bible, Yes/No?" and people answered truthfully, when reporting the "Yes" percentage, there would be a decimal point then several zeros before you got to a digit. Now isn't this strange, amongst people who claim that the Bible is the Word of God? If you actually did believe that the creator of the universe left a written record, direct from his (sic) own mouth, then that record would be somewhat compelling, right? It would be unputdownable, surely?
In all things, it is what people do rather than what they say which reveals what they really think. So your friend says "I LOVE tennis!" but doesn't own a racquet or a ball, never goes near a court, is vague as to the rules and never, but never, watches matches live or on TV. He's lying. So your girlfriend says "I love you, I love you, I love you, like never before." But she never returns your emails and texts, it's been years since she gave you so much as a birthday card, she changes the subject when you try to engage her in deep conversation, and you know she is simultaneously dating several other blokes. It's time to dry your eyes and sign up to Tinder. In much the same way, what Christians do with the Bible tells you what they really think of it.
The trouble is, the Bible is hard work. There are some nice bits (everybody answering the surveys seems to mention Psalm 23 and/or John 3) but lots and lots of boring and distasteful bits. And reading it brings you face to face with your own presuppositions about the Bible itself. For example, the ONLY ways to preserve a belief in Biblical inerrancy is either to only ever read parts of it, or to never read it at all. Much energy is spent on the question about whether or not the Bible is the Word of God, but actually, that's the wrong question. Or at least, it's the wrong question for Christians. A better question is: HOW is the Bible the Word of God? and that's a much trickier one to answer; or at least to answer glibly.
The Abel Tasman track is one of the world's great walks. It's comparatively easy to walk the whole thing but it does take some effort. Some people walk bits of it: there are water taxis which will drop you off and pick you up again from almost anywhere along the path, so you can stroll along the prettiest bits and not be unduly challenged by it. But the only way to really know this, the most beautiful corner of the planet, is to start at one end and walk it all: to soldier through the Tonga Swamp, and risk the razor sharp shells and the stingrays as you wade Awaroa Inlet as well as bask on the golden sands of Bark Bay or swim in the crystal clear water at Little Anapai.
The only way to really know the Bible; the only way to come to some real, as opposed to imagined, understanding of what God might be doing with the strange old book is to read it. Not read bits of it. Read it.
So before you tell others who God's Word permits them to love; or whether or not they can speak in church; or when they should take their days off, read it. Show by your actions, and by your actions alone, that you actually believe the Bible to be what you proclaim it to be.