This principle is so basic I’m almost embarrassed to include it in the list, but it’s definitely one of those truths that nearly everyone seems to forget.
Listen, communication takes work. This doesn’t apply only to communication between God and human beings…all communication takes work. To really understand someone else, we have to listen well and pay attention to context. We have to try to understand how they use particular words and realize that what they mean by a word might not be exactly what we mean by it. We have to avoid jumping to conclusions and really try to hear what they’re saying before reacting. All that takes effort, but there’s good news: the more time we spend carefully communicating with someone, the easier it gets to understand them.
When my wife and I first got married, we were both surprised at how easy it was to misunderstand each other, but that really shouldn’t have been a surprise: we both had different backgrounds, experiences and families. We placed different values on different things. We had different personalities. All of those things contributed to a lot of misunderstandings early in our marriage, but we worked hard at communicating well with each other and we got better at it. It got easier. I’m not saying that we never misunderstand each other or have conflicts over communication anymore because we do…but it happens a lot less now than it used to. We misunderstand each other less often, because we’ve spent a lot of time communicating with each other and it has gotten easier.
It’s like that with the Bible. The more time you spend reading the Bible, the easier it will be to understand it. But a lot of people give up on reading the Bible too fast…they haven’t spent enough time reading the Bible to get to the point where understanding it gets easier. Come to think of it, a lot of marriages have exactly the same problem: a couple realizes early on that communication takes work and they give up on it before they get to the point where it starts to get easier…and their marriage suffers for it the rest of their lives – that is, if the marriage survives at all.
This is not to say that everyone will get to the point that every part of the Bible will be incredibly easy to understand. There will always be parts of the Bible that require more careful reading and maybe some extra work to understand properly. But the more time you spend reading the Bible carefully, the fewer the parts of the Bible that you’ll struggle to understand. But the reverse is also true…the less time you spend reading the Bible the more parts of it will be confusing to you:
So if you want to understand the Bible better, spend more time reading the Bible!
That’s it for our current series: 4 Simple Truths About the Bible Everyone Seems to Forget. Next week we’ll be starting a new series on Bible Basics: simple – but solid – principles for responsible biblical interpretation. Basically, over the next few months we’ll give you a graduate-level class on understanding the Bible broken down into bite-sized truths that you can understand and apply right away.
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