By Phares Gilchrist
I recently saw an article on a church I am very well acquainted with. The church of 4,000 with a school system of 2,000 had petitioned the state to allow it to have a paid police presence. The church was actually asking to have the same police presence as the public schools and to pay for it. The news outlet made it sound like the church had a history of racism and LGBTQ hatred. The reporter quoted an apology given a few years ago by the denomination’s governing body in which the denomination as a whole apologized for some sins of racism in the past by some of its churches. The church in the article, the one requesting a police presence, had been at the vanguard of racial reconciliation in that city, and yet, the article was reposted by other outlets and political parties with a reason to go with the narrative.
I thought of Jesus. And the disciples. And Moses and Abraham. And the amount of time and energy that goes into misrepresenting them, repeating the misrepresentation, and the motives behind the stories. I am an eyewitness to the events that involve that church, and I can speak with authority on that subject. I can read the articles with an astute understanding of what is accurate and what is not because I know the people involved, the culture of the church and the culture it lives in, and the culture that reports on it without knowing it or its people personally.
In other words, to be able to draw the right conclusions I must know the facts. I must be literate about the issues.
Biblical literacy is necessary to draw the right conclusions when confronted with conflicting accounts of who Christ is, what He said, and what His purposes are. If social media has 650,000 people following one who claims Christ and says, “You’ve been taught this, but wait, I say this,” I need to know for myself what the Bible says in order to discern, as the Bereans did, what is true. Biblical illiteracy gives the advantage to every possible person who would like to twist something in his or her favor for whatever reason with social means to build a following.
A literate Christian is an empowered one. You cannot separate God, Holy Spirit, and Christ from Scripture. It is how we know each One. It is the reservoir where the power is kept waiting for us, as David clearly understood. Whatever depth of discouragement, sin and depression, that reservoir is deeper. It still requires that I allow it to permeate me and then to respond accordingly. But to do that I must know it.
You may be tempted to think it’s too much work to be literate. You might say, “I can’t do it.” I always thought that about Leviticus and Deuteronomy, but I approached these Old Testament books differently this last year. I got the Read Scripture app with its well done videos at the beginning of each book which rexplain well the context in less than 10 and often 5 minutes. From that I am able to take the visual tool and helpful context to better appreciate what is happening in the book. Guess what. I liked it! I began to see the purpose of these books. These were people who had been slaves for 400 years, had no culture or ability to make one, and needed everything spelled out. Sound familiar? We Christians are being used as living stones to create a culture, specifically a temple, where fellowship and worship take place. It won’t always be pretty, but so worth it. I began to draw connections between that culture and mine I had not made before, and had probably heard a hundred sermons on.
Sometimes I’m in situations and realize just how far I have to go in my own biblical literacy. Interestingly, that means I am engaged and have a reference point. How to pursue becomes clearer. As I pursue and some dots connect, my confidence grows and I pursue some more. Then I’ll see some change in me, something I’ve neglected to address, and I see growth. It’ll raise its ugly head again, and I have a reference to what transpired before. More growth. And in that area, transformation begins. I may have a hundred of these areas, but seeing growth in just this one encourages me that God can indeed use His Word to transform.
I am an eyewitness.