And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”
-Revelation 21:3-4 (NRSV)
How my bones ache for this day; the day in which God makes all things new. Earth undergoes metamorphosis, becoming quite unlike anything we ever knew before; yet there is a tinge of familiarity in the sense that we will exclaim, “This is how life was meant to be lived!” The scent of injustice that fills our nostrils with every breath that we take will not just be covered up and hidden, it will be eradicated. Someday.
That day, however, is not today. The hands on the clock push forward toward the future, propelling themselves away from the past, and each breath in this world feels like the last; weighted. Given that I cannot have the immediate presence of God and walk side by side with Christ at this present time, I turn to this unique collection of words known as the word of God.
I can’t bring myself to call it a book, that would be far too simplistic. For there are 82 distinct-yet-intimately-interconnected documents (including the apocrypha) that rest between this cracked leather cover, waiting to be discovered. To even say that it consists of numerous books would be an injustice to the literary diversity that is contained within the pages of The Bible. These words that we hold in our hands are a record, a record of humankind’s messy collision with the divine. Sometimes that collision is beautiful; God derives a world and populates it with diverse-yet-related life. Sometimes the collision is heart-wrenching; man decides that pride is something to be valued above God. Other times it is painfully honest; prophets, such as Isaiah and Amos, rail against injustice. Always it is powerful.
So how then, should we read these words? It would be rather easy to break down the Torah into a bundle of rules, the prophets into cryptic messages about the future, and the New Testament letters as more important rules that should be held above the Torah. Something about this methodology, however, smacks of blunt literalism in a place where divine nuance is needed.
How then should we read these words? I believe that these words are that which form the Christian mythology, the sacred meta-narrative. Yes, these words are story, with beginning, middle and end; Word before time, Word incarnate, and Word triumphant! These words provide validation to the truth that we know deep within our heart-of-hearts; man rejects God daily, but God is a gracious God indeed, coming back to set everything right and anew again! God does so on the small scale with the individual narratives contained within the bible. He then joins them together, as a large-scale operation towards the redemption of humanity and the cosmos! This is the significance of these words which God has given us.
This is not to say that narratives in the bible do not have historical validity, I believe many of them do. But if we argue the historical validity of every single story that is contained within these words, then we have truly failed to grasp the larger significance of what God is doing! If we see the bible as God’s story of man’s redemption, then the lesser arguments that divide the church begin to fade away; creation begins to worships creator anew and in unity. It does not so much matter if God has created the world in 6 days (nor by what method he chose to do so), for the point is that God is order, he stands against chaos, and he is a creative God; praise Him! It does not so much matter what atonement theory is correct in describing how Christ saves sinners, for the point is that Christ saves sinners; joy enough in itself! It doesn’t matter how Christ will come back, for he returning; hallelujah indeed!
These words are story. They are God’s story. They are words about the Word.
When all things are put back into place, these words will have served their purpose.
These words will fade and be outshone by Christ, as he takes his proper place as Lord of all. For these words were never meant to be the object of our worship, or even our hope; our hope lies in Christ alone. That, my friends, is gospel truth.