I am out of the country again this week, continuing to lead a study tour of Greece and Turkey. Since Internet access on our trip is unreliable, I wrote these essays before we left. Last week I began a series on the ten most important spiritual truths I’ve learned, beginning with the earliest and continuing to the most recent. Last week we considered lessons #10 to #6.
Today we come to #5: The Bible is eternally relevant, because human nature doesn’t change.
Dr. Yandall Woodfin is one of God’s greatest gifts to my life and work. He taught systematic theology at Southwestern Seminary for many years, left the seminary to teach in Switzerland, then returned to teach philosophy of religion. To my knowledge, he is the only tenured professor in the seminary’s history who taught in two completely different fields.
He is brilliant, more fluent in German than I am in English. He is a marvelous painter and one of the most challenging thinkers I have ever met. His classic text, With All Your Mind, should be required for all Christian leaders. In reading it as a seminary student, I discovered a simple but profound principle that made the Bible more powerful in my life than ever before: Human nature does not change.
We still face the same challenges and temptations as Adam and Eve. As a result, the interpreter is not under obligation to “make the Bible relevant.” It is already relevant to our problems and issues. All we need to do is remove the cultural barriers that have grown up over the centuries.
For example, I once taught the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) this way: An African-American man was forced to the back of the bus by an Anglo bus driver. Later that day, the driver was mugged and left on the side of the road. His pastor saw him but rushed past to be on time to the monthly deacons’ meeting. The chairman of deacons found him but hurried by to attend the same meeting. Then the passenger he had mistreated stopped, drove him to the hospital while he bled on his car seat, and paid his bill.
My retelling did not make Jesus’ story relevant–it put his eternal truth in the same cultural context our Lord first addressed. Martin Luther was right: The Bible is like a lion–it does not need to be defended, but uncaged. If we study its intended meaning, that truth will speak to our greatest needs today. When was the last time reading God’s word changed your life?