The Bible as a Mirror and a Window

God doesn’t save us by the completeness of our knowledge but rather by our faithfulness to what we do know and our openness to the possibility of learning more. This, I think, is what Jesus meant when he said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily, I say unto you, whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein” (Mark 10:14-15, KJV). Children are the symbol of who can enter God’s kingdom, not because they are especially innocent but because they are teachable—they constantly want to know why something is the way it is, and they are open to receiving the answers to their questions. A disciple is one who is committed to learning what a teacher has to impart. This is why pupils sit at the feet of rabbis, and this is why the followers of Jesus, both at the beginning and today, are called disciples. This is what we become when we approach the Bible with this second naiveté.

The Bible is a mirror reflecting back to us our world and ourselves, making us see realities we may want to avoid. The Bible is also a window through which we see the alternative reality of God’s peaceable kingdom, a reality in which we can begin to participate while remaining in the world of our ordinary, sinful experience. But our sight in the mirror or through the window is always partial and imperfect. The glass we see through, we see “through . . . darkly,” and in our present life “we know in part, and prophesy in part” (see 1 Cor 13:12). But, if we are willing to read the Bible in light of what we know about history and the ancient world, and if we are open to the possibility that God can use these ancient texts to reveal what we need to know about how to live, then the words in the Bible can become the word of God for us. We then are able truly to declare, “This is the word of the LORD.”

This post originally appeared in chapter 9 of “This is the Word of the Lord”: How the Bible Became Text and Why It Matters by Bill Thomason.

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