Learn within community!
We learn from others. We gain knowledge through our family, friends, coworkers, and teachers. Listening to their experiences and guidance provides wisdom. These people strengthen our thinking and challenge our biases. They help us learn. Without them, we wouldn’t.
Yet how many times do we read the Bible with others? How often do struggle together over difficult verses? How often do we discuss those—well—frustrating passages? The ones that we just don’t get but accept because everyone else seems to. How often do we invite others to help us learn God’s Word?
May I suggest we learn Scripture within the context of community?
“Ok, so what do I do?” you may ask. “It’s hard enough to read by myself. Now you wanna get me with others?”
If you’re like me, questions like these prove difficult. It feels like including others in my Bible reading proves lofty but unrealistic. The truth, however, is we must read the Bible in the context of community. Without others, we risk erring in how we apply Scripture to our lives!
Take church history for example. How many of us read the writings of our church fathers. Do we compare our Biblical opinions with those of our predecessors? If not, perhaps today would be a good time to start. These godly people have invaluable experience we can learn from. The writings of Augustine help us understand grace. His Confessions provide an intimate view of how he struggled with selfishness. (Something that you and me definitely don’t struggle with, right?)
Or how about church creeds? Did you know our Christian ancestors have already put together well-articulated statements of faith? These statements were not haphazardly put together but involved countless hours of Scripture interpretation in the context of community. So if you’re interested in what some very smart people have said about important topics such as who Jesus is, who the Holy Spirit is, and who you and me are, check out Creeds of the Churches: A Reader in Christian Doctrine from the Bible to the Present, edited by John H. Leith.
Or how about small groups? Meeting regularly with other Christian men or women encourages us to persevere in our Bible reading. They keep us accountable. The sage explains, “As iron sharpens iron, so a person sharpens his friend” (Prov. 27:17). Small groups provide a great way to let others help sharpen our Biblical understanding.
So let’s commit to community. Let’s read Scripture with others. Let’s talk about it with our friends. Let’s learn from what our Christian ancestors have to say about the Bible. And in doing so, we guard against misinterpreting and misapplying God’s Word in our lives.