Having blood drawn for a periodic physical – quite the scenario for meeting a new person, eh? She was relatively young (but most people are, compared to me. So, that was nothing new.)
Drawing the blood from my left arm, Michelle saw my wedding band, and asked how many years we have been married. How do I answer that? So, I simply told her that this past June it would have been 51 years.
The ice was broken, we both felt comfortable talking, and she wanted to know why I lived for many years in Argentina. And, she told me that although a biology major, she has always been very interested in religion. So, the door was wide open, and we both entered that room of conversation. As part of that, we explored the issue of what people expect from religion. It was a completely new area of thought for her. But, she was very interested, and finally I told her that I had met a soul mate!!
The conversation with Michelle was on my mind most of this afternoon. So much so that my mind naturally started pondering the big picture terms about the Bible. I wasn’t asking questions such as “Why is that plural rather than singular?” “Why Capernaum rather than Cana?” “Why two fish rather than three fish?”
I was asking myself, “What is the nature of the Bible in global terms?
Yes, it is full of details coming from several thousands of years of information gathering and composition . All kinds of people, all kinds of cultures, all kinds of religions – they are all there in the Bible. It is easy to get bogged down in the details of who was whose wife, son, king, slave, disciple, prophet, explorer, etc.
But, I was thinking about the big picture, and this is what I came up with as an explanation – God is in conversation with humanity. In that conversation, God is trying to get people to understand what the human “problem” is. In that sense, God is presenting Himself as the One who understands what issues need to be addressed for humanity to return to being as close to what humanity was when first coming out of the oven.
So, God is the One who understands humanity, knows why it is what it is, and knows where it is headed.
Then, God assumes the task of solving the problem humanity has. The solution that God has for humanity is such that people don’t basically like it.
It isn’t that the people portrayed in the Bible are anti-religious. They are, in fact, very religious, embracing a variety of practices, gods, and related moral values.
They show themselves to have many expectations as to what their religions can do for them. The people have expectations concerning how religion can prepare them for what happens after they die, how religion can organize their approach to international conflicts, how religion can stipulate the structuring of the family, how religion determines the gender roles, the family structure. . . The truth is that the people turn to their religions to satisfy their expectations at every turn.
Yes, the people are religious. The people have religious expectations. And, God is carrying on His conversation with humanity in this scenario. Then comes the day when the conversation takes on a new feature.
God incarnates, and will converse with humanity like never before. In fact, one of the labels the God incarnate takes is “The Word.” And, He also has other labels that have connotations of expectations. He is a servant, He is a King. He is a victim of martyrdom. He is the epitome of love. He is a leader who does not take on social airs nor domination. He does not exploit others. He becomes known as the King of righteousness. And, people love Him. Rightfully so.
He is different. He is good. He edifies. He puts people back on the path. He gives hope. He loves.
And, and, and, it now makes sense to have religious expectations. It is always good to let God talk to us about Who He is.
And, by the way, Michelle, thanks for the conversation.