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Chaplain's Chat 16th May 2018

“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”

I have been reflecting recently on the bible and its significance in the life of Christians. As I was doing so, it took me back to the time when I worked for a major international bank in the City of London. As with all such organisations, there were a myriad of policies and procedures that had to be followed to comply with banking regulations and to ensure the we were providing high quality customer service. The bank had a three-volume instruction and policy manual. Amusingly, it was referred to as “the bible.” However, I think that there was a tacit message in that title i.e. make sure that you do what it says you should!

The Christian bible is much more than an instruction and policy manual. Psalm 119 highlights the value and significance of God’s instructions to us that are found in the scriptures. It is a long Psalm containing 176 verses. The verse that stands out for me, however, is verse 105:

“Your word is a lamp for my feet,
a light on my path.” (NIV)

For me, that is certainly the case. However, there are many views held these days about the relevance of religion in general and of the bible in particular. I have heard comments that suggest that the bible is outdated and irrelevant in relation to a number of issues that we face in modern society. What surprises is that some who espouse that view do not suggest that the Bible be discarded, but that it be rewritten or reinterpreted to make it more relevant in the modern context. This is where I urge caution. If one goes about rewriting a book because we do not agree with its contents or the interpretation thereof, and we insert our interpretations, does it remain the same book?  I would suggest that it does not. If we cannot agree with the contents of the Bible or its interpretation, we cannot simply rewrite them to suit our purposes. What critics must be aware of is the historicity, context and purpose for which the bible was written in the first place. The Bible was written over a period of 1500 years by about 40 authors all of whom put forward the same message. This message is that the universe and everything in it was created by a loving God who seeks a relationship with his creation. It tells the wonderful story of the salvation of humankind in and through the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  The content, Christians believe, is God inspired. It cannot therefore, be rewritten on a whim. It cannot be changed to give acceptance to our contemporary behaviour patterns or to soothe consciences. God’s word is God’s word. Referring back to my time in the bank in London, “the bible” was their “bible.” It was not my prerogative to change it in any way or to interpret it that way that I thought best. Not complying with its edicts would have been a bad career move.

My suggestion is that we study the scriptures and meditate upon them deeply. We should pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in leading us to an authentic, accurate and compassionate interpretation and application of the scriptures in our modern context. Personally I thank God for the Bible; for the guidance it offers, for the correction that it offers when I stray and for the hope that it offers in hopeless situations. Most of all, I am grateful for the core message of the Bible - that God loves us unconditionally and eternally. That being the case, I am happy to grapple with the content and context of this, the best-selling book of all time, on a daily basis. 

God bless! 
Rev Dave