Sunday, November 18, 2007
Emotionally Reading the Text
I have started a practice that has revolutionized the way I read the Scripture. It is something my seminary training did not teach me, but I would add it to my schedule of classes if I ever started my own school. I would call this class, Emotionally Reading the Text. It doesn’t take the place of understanding the sitz em lebem, but it might help a person see the way in which the Scripture was handed to them. This is why you and I can read the same verse and one of us feel comforted and the other shackled. I did a quick search in the New Testament and found a few occurrences where Jesus told people not to doubt. This time, instead of first going to the root meaning of the word, or getting out a parsing guide, I ask myself, if Jesus were speaking these words to me, what tone of voice would he be using? In each and every case, he was pissed at me. During my formative years, I didn’t know a single soul who ever spoke of doubt in any terms other than shameful ones. The assumption was that if you doubt, you are basically disqualified from the possibility of having any kind of spiritual influence. I can recall asking a speaker one time about how I can get better at praying and not doubting My question obviously annoyed him, because his terse answer snapped back like a green peach switch, “It’s your choice, either believe or don’t.” And he walked off. The exchange left me, an influential student, flustered, concluding I must be a bad person. I think this insecurity is why I have a tendency to read Jesus’ words with the same sense of shame. Other leaders were not kind, and since they were his spokesmen, why should he be any different? If men I tried to please were always irritated at my lack of belief, it only made sense that Jesus would be even more so. Shedding light on the emotion we place on the text can expose the doubt that wants to overshadow faith.