The Daily Challenge of Scripture

Each day, we are forced to look at our failings, but also at the unrelenting love and mercy of God that was revealed to us.

The practice of reading the scriptures is central to our understanding of God and to our relationship with him in Jesus Christ. Our encounter with scripture should not be a passive affair. It needs to be an intensely personal encounter with God. It is He who is speaking to us in the present moment, not just to the Apostles or the people of his time two thousand years ago. This is, after all, a living word. It is as alive and tangible and true today as it was then.

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If we enter into the scriptures personally, placing ourselves in the events that are being described, we can begin to hear and to feel the power of the Holy Spirit working in our minds and in our hearts more personally, too. As an example, let’s take an event from the third chapter of the Acts of the Apostles and enter into it with our imaginations, with our minds and our hearts open to hearing more deeply what it is saying to us.

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Place yourself in your imagination in the crowd that follows Peter and John as they encounter and cure the cripled man at the Beautiful Gate. You, along with the rest of the crowd, are amazed at seeing this man “jumping and praising God.” You follow Peter and John and the crippled man to Solomon’s Portico where Peter turns now to address you and the crowd. Listen intently as Peter says: “You handed over the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob’s servant to Pilate. You even denied him in favor of a murderer. The author of life you put to death, but God raised him up from the dead; of this we are witnesses” (Acts 313-15). This is, of course, true as Jesus was handed over, suffered and died because of your sins, and my sins, and the sins of all of humanity from the beginning to the present. Can you feel the shame, the guilt, the sorrow they must have felt? But even more importantly, can you feel the hope that rises in Peter’s next words.

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“I know, brothers and sisters, that you acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did; but God has thus brought to fulfillment what he had announced beforehand through the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer. Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away” (Acts 3:17-19). This is the truth that we must face if we are to become true disciples of Jesus Christ.

When we read this scripture, we are personally being challenged to recognize that it was because of our sins that the great mystery of God’s love for us became real and present to us in the Person of Jesus Christ. Its lesson is directed to me, to us, here and now. It is a matter of reality and truth that every time I sin, I hand Jesus over to Pilate to be condemned. Every time I reject Jesus in favor of my own desires, or out of a fear of some kind, or in conscious rebellion, I strike yet another hammer blow on one of the nails driven into his hands and feet.

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Hear this, too. “But many who heard the word came to believe and the number of men grew to about five thousand” (Acts 4:4). This is what the word of God, spoken by Peter to that crowd in the Temple, did that day way back then, and it still has the same force and power to do so today. Every day we are, and ought to be, challenged by the scriptures we read. They are addressed to each of us, personally, here and now. Each day the scriptures challenge us to look at ourselves in relation to Jesus, the One who is the way, the truth, and the life. And each day, we are forced to look at our failings, but also at the unrelenting love and mercy of God that was revealed to us in Jesus Christ.

In the practice of reading the scriptures, our love for Jesus, and our desire to imitate him in all of our thoughts, words, and deeds, can grow more and more real. I am a sinner, but I know, too, that God’s love and mercy are greater than my sins. He calls me to be a disciple each day, to practice his ways of love and mercy in my daily life. This is why we need to go to scripture daily, to foster this continuing, life-long conversion of our minds and our hearts to follow his way. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

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