In a song that (to me) is equally about prayer and the Bible, Mercy Me sings “Word of God speak…” I think this gets to a root conversation about the Bible – that many consider it a “living word” of God. What do we mean by this?
In a way, the Bible is not just a book that I seek and desire to read and know better, but it is also a book that seems to know me; when I read Scripture, not only do I get insight into God, but suddenly I am given insight into myself, as a trusted friend might be willing to share when my behavior is wrong (or encourage me when I’m heading in the right direction!).
The Bible is a “living word” for many Christians precisely because so many believe it “speaks” to us, to our lives, and to our conditions. We believe that the Bible is part of an ongoing conversation between God and humanity – and it is, in fact, the starting point for many of us where we first join this conversation!
This is not to say the Bible is necessarily the literal, verbatim words of God – I’ll write/preach about theologies regarding the “inspiration” of the Bible later – but it is to say that for many Christians, the Bible is an insightful record of God’s activity in the world – and with human beings! – and gives us insight into God’s nature, God’s love, and God’s desires for us.
To reflect on the Bible as a “living word,” think about this for a moment: When you consider the Bible, what do you feel?
Don’t think a book can inspire an emotional response? Many of us, when we are asked for a book recommendation, can joyfully share recommendations, as well as reviews, of novels we’ve read. A good novel inspires a degree of emotional response: joy, satisfaction, etc.
So what kind of emotion does “the Bible” evoke in you?
Peace? Joy? Guilt? (Many people do feel some degree of guilt because we want to read the Bible more!) Or does the Bible just leave you feeling a degree of despair, because it seems too daunting to tackle?
I believe that the Bible is a means by which God works in our lives. “Searching the Scripture” is one of the “means of grace” described by John Wesley and the Methodist movement, precisely because we understand that our continual reflection on the Bible will influence us to better know God’s presence around and within. The Bible is a “living word” because no one reads it alone; we are always in the presence of the Holy Spirit who inspired the authors and continues to inspire those who read and hear these words. And the Bible is a “living word” because it begins a conversation between my spirit and God’s Spirit, one that can continue and be heard in many other areas of life.
What does “living word” mean for you?