Let’s say you had a friend from High School who you haven’t seen in years. You remember him as a wild, impulsive type who lived without fear and, at times, without any common sense. He won every argument, hardly ever admitted he was wrong, and took control of most situations that fell into his lap.
He then calls you, now in his mid-forties. He arranged for you and he and his wife and your spouse all to get together for dinner.
The moment you see him, you feel that he hardly has changed: only now married with 5 kids. His wife seldom speaks and when she does, it’s only to affirm what your friend is saying.
All of his stories involve him as the hero and his family is nowhere near the adventure. He goes on hunting trips, impulsively, by himself and will leave his family behind. He makes decisions for the family and then informs his wife what they are doing. She is at home, raises the kids, and takes care of things. She makes him his lunch in the morning, to which he sometimes eats if he doesn’t go out with a client (and then he tells you he throws away her lunch). He’s proud of every story he tells, expecting his wife to silently nod in his triumph.
Your spouse, on car ride home, describes him accurately, “He isn’t really a husband or a father, just married to a wife who is a single mother of 5 kids.”
He talks about his independence from her, however you don’t catch any spite.
Quite the opposite. He praises her constantly. His favourite expression (used often) is “Ain’t she great?” He boasts that he got into a fist fight with a co-worker once because he disrespected her. He talks often about her wisdom and beauty and amazing abilities to keep his home in order. She is a perfect angel, he tells you. And yet…you get the sense they don’t really talk to each other.
At the end of the night, he seems to be exactly the same man he was in High School…only married. And when you look into his eyes past the bravado and the bluster, you catch a sense of loneliness. “Those who must be kings don’t have many in their courts,” the old proverb suggests and his marriage matches this saying.
After your night out with this friend, you receive a call from another High School chum. This one, you tell your spouse, is a main character of all of the stories in High School you don’t tell your children. This second friend…was real trouble.
You- quite reluctantly- agree to meet him and his wife, along with your spouse at the same restaurant. The difference between the first friend and the second friend is night/day.
You still see the sparkle in your second friend’s eye that belongs to a teenager, but it now fits within the appropriate context of someone in their mid-forties.
The spouse is an active participant in the dinner, swapping stories and sharing ideas. Your second friend talks about their kids, their vacation, and his career with the suggestion that his wife plays an active part in everything he does. She doesn’t just accompany him, but speaks up, contributes, shapes, and even guides a lot of his decisions. The family, from everything you can gather, is one unit, shuffling from drama to drama.
He is a kind man, you figure, and his love for his wife is noted most by how open he is to her and her function in his life. He is not the same man as he was in High School. Then again, he’s become much more of who he was then because- as you say to your spouse on the way home from the dinner. He just became “more of more of himself” because of his marriage.
His marriage has changed him…for the better.
This little thought exercise is not my own, rather it is borrowed (with respect) from James F. McGrath. You can follow the link here:
However, let’s take this idea and apply to how Christians treat their Bible. The first fellow is an example of “Biblical Christians” who love the Word of God, want it respected, have broken friendships with people who disagreed with them, and have destroyed people’s lives without hesitation because they were “only doing what God told them to do.”
It’s like a husband who places his wife upon a pedestal, but yet does everything possible not to listen to her, not to let her perspective guide his steps, and is someone stridently committed to the notion of never changing.
When the Bible is preached in their church, they tune it out because they believe they’ve heard it all before. If there is a new interpretation, they get angry and mad and use all sorts of names to defend their first and original view of that specific text. They love podcasts and sermons and books about the Bible, but only if these teachings submit their pedestal placed, very distant marriage to the Bible.
Then there’s the other marriage, about the fellow who flung himself at his marriage. His wife is a companion-certainly- but she’s much more than that. She guides and directs and speaks up and challenges, infusing herself into his life. This is a marriage of dynamic intimacy: the more he listens and shares with his wife, the more he grows.
The second spouse reminds us of the process one goes allowing the Bible change them from the inside-out.
Now, of course, this is a metaphor and all truth gets condensed when you “go story”. In a marriage between two equals, there is give and take; with the Word of God, there is an exchange but it exists for the purpose of changing the reader (not the reader changing the text). Certainly, the Bible can’t do things you and I can do (Ex. we can feed the homeless, the Bible can only inspire such activities, etc.)- but it’s not an equal transaction. It’s also not a complimentary relationship. The Bible, for the Christian, is the revealed Word of God- a status you or I could never aspire towards. So my recommendation is not to take this metaphor TOO far other than it’s an image of love and that’s about it.
In recent times, we’ve been seeing those who espouse a great love for the Bible yet the Bible doesn’t match their politics, positions, or postings. The confusion is simple, “If you’ve been a Christian for so long, why are you at odds with the Bible’s position on the poor/immigrants/women/justice/integrity/grace/etc…?”
My question in dealing with this tension is to ask, “How healthy is their marriage to the Bible?” Is the Bible placed on a pedestal, but so distant and removed that it no longer changes them? Or is it an active partner, shaping their steps and ways? Is it a token, an emblem, and only a totem? Or is it something that works, directs, convicts, and changes?