For a few months now, I have been joining a group of friends on a weeknight for a Chinese class in the language of the Bible. A local friend volunteers to teach us stories, songs, and examine Chinese culture.
It is really interesting to look at the Word from the perspective of learning new vocabulary. No word or phrase is left unexamined. It’s not that every Chinese word for me is new, but I’m still learning grammar and new phrases and new ways of saying the same things. Taking apart every sentence and examining the Chinese leads me to take apart and examine the content of what I’m studying as well.
For example, we just studied Mark 9 where Jesus is explaining that it is better to cut off an arm, leg, or eye than to allow that part to continue to lead one into sin. I was examining “cut off” in Chinese. We also learned the word for gouge – as in your eye. A simple phrase, yet it is quite dramatic in this passage. And then I had to consider whether there are things in my life that may need to be cut off, even if it might seem like a drastic measure! How far am I willing to go in order to live fully alive, fully devoted, striving for purity?
It is another personal, spiritual, yet very real confirmation that this book really is a living Word, written by the Holy Spirit, all truth for our good! No matter the reason I am reading it – even a small portion of it – it speaks to me and speaks to my heart.
Even so, there are more times than I care to admit that when I open the book to read, study, get comfort, or simply be obedient, I get nothing from it, and it seems as if there is nothing for me there. I know that at those times it is not God’s fault when that happens – it is my own flesh that has become resistant.
Anne Rice, who wrote the Vampire Chronicles, but has recently come back to Christian faith, wrote in her memoir that “picking up the Gospel on any given morning is like picking up a brand-new book.” I wish I had that fresh outlook every time I picked up the Bible!