Having now finished eight chapters of 1 Corinthians we are right in the middle of Paul’s letter and it is a great time to look back at the first half.
I was going to give a bit of a review in this post, but it’ll have to wait for tomorrow. But perhaps that’s serendipitous. It’ll give you time to see what you can remember on your own. See if you can remember something from the beginning, the next couple chapters, and then the most recent ones. Do certain themes stand out? Can you especially remember a certain passage? Did God bless you by your reading and study in some way?
In terms of the memory verses, do you have any of those stored away? As you review the verses from each week, which you could do visually here, does that help you recall more from the chapters that the verses are in?
As you take the time to do this, I’d absolutely love to hear how it goes. What has helped the most, what has stuck with you, what more can we do or what can we do differently? Let me know in the comments or via email or if you’re in the neighborhood, stop on by the office.
I hope that in reviewing, you get excited at what God has been teaching you and you can get a dose of excitement as we look ahead to the last eight chapters. (Maybe, if you’re so excited, you’d want to share this with a friend and invite them to read with you.)
When I was putting together some graphics to go along with this second iteration of Year in the Bible, I came up with a simple image of a book with a bookmark pulled down through the middle. Year in the Bible is a guided reading plan, so I thought a book with a bookmark fit that pretty well. The logo for Year in the Bible looks like a square and a triangle and is supposed to evoke the shape of an open book, too. I also have made bookmarks for this 1 Corinthians plan to tuck in your Bible. This all makes sense because books and reading go and in hand.
Except that is now changing.
When we kicked this off in June, I remember another pastor here mentioning the bookmarks and how you might need to take it and tape it to the back of your phone, if that’s where you read. What was meant as a joke had a lot of truth in it. For more and more people, reading the Bible doesn’t mean opening a book, but instead pulling out a phone.
So, I’ve been mulling that over for a while. Are there any implications for the way we engage with God’s word when we do so via a screen instead of a page? Do we lose something? Do we gain something? I certainly don’t have any conclusive remarks on this, especially since we’re just in the middle of what seems to be this great change in the way we read.
One worry for me is that I lose a bit of the uniqueness of the Bible when it is just another item for me to read on my phone. It doesn’t stand apart. I don’t have to make the deliberate choice I once did to carry a Bible with me. There is no sacrifice of space in my bag or the added weight to my shoulders. Also, if I went away to rid myself of distractions and to-do lists and emails and sat with my Bible, nothing else competed for my attention. With a phone or tablet, it is very easy to stop reading to quickly do something else. The temptation to multitask is great. For these reasons, and a few more, I’m not ready yet to part with my dead-tree Bibles.
But on the other hand, I now always have the Bible with me. And not only one translation, but many. My paper Bibles have nice concordances, but with the technology we have now, I can search through the entire Bible in a moment. I can follow cross-references all around Scripture, and do so with ease. Reading like this on a phone or a website has really encouraged not only the reading, but study. I am no expert scholar in Biblical languages, but I’ve got tools that help me with Greek and Hebrew that fit in my pocket. With that sort of ability it is not an usual feeling for me to think that I am living in the future.
There are sites and apps that can bring a communal aspect into your personal readings. You can tap on a verse and find out what comments others had contributed in regards to it. Have questions about what Paul meant in a certain passage? Maybe someone had the same question, too, and maybe someone else has a pretty good answer. There’s another program that provides fantastic illustrations and interactive graphics to help you feel like you’re in ancient Jerusalem, so as you read through the gospels you can see what it was like. As I’ve mentioned before, we can listen to the audio of the Bible and there can be real value in hearing and listening, as well as reading. Who knows what else may be offered in five or ten years?
About five hundred years ago the Bible was a book that resided in the hands of a select few. It wasn’t for the masses. But things change. Perhaps some of the reverence was lost when the Bible slowly became common. Would you feel the same way about the Bible if you only saw it richly ornamented and embellished in a church instead of in every hotel room drawer? Probably not. Yet the gain outweighed what was lost. God’s word is for the people of God, and when the printing press started a revolution and the texts were being translated into the vernacular, it had a great impact.
I don’t know all the implications of the technology many are now using to read the Bible, but we can at least rejoice as more people are given access to God’s word around the world. The tools are being spread and men and women are engaging with the Bible in new ways and the more we can draw attention–not to the technology–but to the content, the better it will be, for our focus can then be drawn to the Word of God, Jesus Christ.
This morning in a Bible study with some men someone spoke a bit about “triggers.” We’ve all got them, some sort of stimulus that can bring about a memory, an action, a feeling, etc. Sometimes they are good triggers, sometimes they are not. We can see this food that has been offered to idols in 1 Corinthians 8 as a sort of trigger. For those still struggling against their old ways and old life in which they worshipped false gods and took part not only in the feasting, but in all the activities of the temple, just seeing that meat may have triggered a whole wave of associations. NT Wright puts it like this in his commentary, “Paul for Everyone”:
They knew what went on there – the dark sense of mystery and fear, the sense that in feasting at the god’s table you were really eating and drinking the god himself, taking his life to be your own life; and then the drink, the sense of casting off moral restraint, the girls and boys waiting round the back to do whatever you wanted in return for a little extra payment to the god … And once you had shared in that dark but powerful world on a regular basis, perhaps for many years, it would be difficult, in your memory and imagination, to separate part of it from the whole thing. Now that you had become a Christian you would feel you had been rescued from the world of darkness and brought out into the light. True worship wasn’t like that; truly human living wasn’t like that. You had escaped. You were free.
Paul wants those who have the knowledge that leads them to be secure in whatever they eat to, in love, think first about their Christian brother or sister. If by eating meat sacrificed to idols or going to those temples to have a meal you cause you fellow believer to conjure up all these past experiences, is it really worth it? Of course not.
It’s important for us to know our own triggers, as well. It isn’t so that we can impose new rules and restrictions, setting up our own laws. It is so that we can protect ourselves and by setting up boundaries prevent falling back into sin. When we know our triggers we can prepare ourselves against temptation. The trigger can be even mundane things like, as I mentioned in this morning’s study, someone cutting you off on your way home from work. Let’s say you notice that when this happens you’re more likely to be rude and impatient to your spouse or roommate when you get home. If you are aware of this trigger and how it makes you anxious and a bit on the grumpy side, that will help you prepare yourself and cause you to say an extra prayer before you walk in the door for the help of the Spirit to give you the strength you need.
And when we are aware of our own triggers we can be much more understanding of others around us. Something that may have no affect on you may have a huge affect on someone else. If our goal is to build one another up that may mean that we forgo our rights and freedoms and instead seek to remove the stumbling blocks from our brother or sister’s path.