Let me make a radical sounding statement: Sometimes I think we focus on applying the Bible to our lives a little too much. Even to our own detriment.
One of the most common ways we read any portion of Scripture is to decipher what the passage means for our lives today. If Peter walked on water, what does that mean for me? How do I apply this story to my life?
This doesn’t really sound like such a big deal, does it? Shame on you; you applied God’s Word to your life and let it impact you. Naughty, naughty.
While there’s a lot worse things we could be doing with the Bible, I still feel like we have this tendency to jump the gun in how we read, and it can be a big deal. When we approach the Bible with an overemphasis of “What’s this mean for me?”, we’re limiting our interaction with God’s Word.
In our times of Bible reading, once we have moved from ‘here’s what happened’ to ‘what’s it mean for me,’ we no longer interact with the story purely as a story. Now we are interacting with it primarily as something that brings insight to life today. And while the Bible is full of truth and principles that are timeless, stories that happened thousands of years ago are not about us. They are about the people in the stories, yet we do a lot of stretching to make them about us, too. Sometimes, too much.
Case in point: we read the story of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, and we quickly see the point of the story as showing how Jesus correctly handled temptation. The application is to understand the three areas the devil tempted Him in order to recognize the devil’s temptations in our own lives and how to stand against them.
What we’ve done is taken a story about Jesus and made it all about us. We feel we’ve got this passage figured out, so we move on to the next one. But we missed the main point. The story is teaching us something about Jesus: namely, where the nation of Israel failed years ago, Jesus succeeds in obedience and dependence on the Father. Jesus proves himself to be faithful Israel, faithful in keeping the covenant with Yahweh.
We tend to do this with the Christmas story as well. We ponder the mystery of the Incarnation, the love of God strikingly displayed in the Son taking on flesh, becoming a vulnerable baby, and being born in such a lowly manner. Then we jump to application: Whose world do I need to more fully enter this season? Who needs me to humbly walk beside them and give of myself?
I am not saying this is wrong. It is good and important. But there are times to read not for application, but for pure immersion into the story. To let the truths of the story sink into our soul. Then once the story has so gotten into us that we are not the same, the application becomes a necessary outflowing of the story’s work inside us.
Consider doing this. These last two weeks leading up to Christmas, spend serious time in the Christmas story. And let it remain a story. Don’t make it about you; don’t try and figure out ‘the point;’ don’t try and make it relevant to your life.
Let it be only about Jesus. God leaving His throne in heaven to establish His kingdom on earth. In a most peculiar, jaw-dropping way.
Enter the Story.