Do you ever read a verse you may have seen a hundred times before and suddenly see it in a different, clearer light?
Besides underscoring the importance of continual Bible study, these moments always take me one step closer to understanding the Spirit in me. As I become more knowledgeable about my relationship with that Spirit, I find myself more comfortable in my own skin. The “peace that surpasses understanding” is always there, these ah-ha moments remind me, we just have to push away the cares of this world that keep us from seeing and feeling our connectedness to the One and Only.
I grew up in the ’70s in the Bible belt. My first Bibles were hard core King James Versions. When I read the Bible through for the first time, it was with a King James version book. It took me until well into my twenties to “trust” any other version of the Lord’s Word. Besides, the poet in me loved the lyricism, the alliteration, the rhythm and the language of the King James Word, even when the phrasing that I loved sometimes made the meaning in a modern world more difficult to comprehend.
For example, even though, “When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Mark 2:17) has a rhythm and parallelism that any writer can truly appreciate, when I read the New Living Translation version of these words, I see an even fuller picture:
When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor–sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
When Jesus came to sacrifice Himself for us, ALL of the people around Him needed it. Always before, when I would read the KJV of this verse, I would think to myself that the verses meant Jesus came to call those who had not already been following the Word of God, those who weren’t going to believe what Jesus was saying at that time. But the NLT version of these words makes it clear that this verse speaks to all of us. Jesus came to heal those of us who are willing to admit that we are sinners and thus are in need of Him.
Knowing I am a sinner as opposed to thinking I am righteous is also a daily reminder of my need to be on my knees in humility before the God who made me. In that position, I cannot judge others or think I am better than a task I have been called upon to do. On my knees, I know my sin and have a chance to repent of it, be healed daily if necessary by the cleansing power of Jesus, and keep moving forward in my relationship with the Holy Spirit that became a part of me the moment I accepted Christ as my Savior.
Because of the power of the salvation of Christ, I am not only delivered from a damned eternity, I am delivered from the vise grip of a life filled with sin. This is the freedom that Paul writes so frequently about. This is the element of the salvation story that we tend to spend the least time on, but that we need the most on a day-to-day basis. We need Jesus every day to help us not step into the darkness but rather to shine His light.
But, I still haven’t shared my verse in a new light for this week, and it is a doozy! Turn to John 13:34 and read a verse I am sure you may already know by heart. Jesus is speaking to His disciples as His coming crucifixion approaches. One of the things He tells them is this:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (NASB).
In the past, I have read this verse and assumed it to be another way to say the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. But the footnotes in my Ryrie Study Bible helped me to see that this commandment takes the Golden Rule to a completely different level.
Think about the implications of the phrase, “even as I have loved you.” How did Jesus love His disciples and all of us, for that matter? He, being God, was willing to be abused, mocked, and even slain for sins He didn’t commit. He loved us so much, He died for us!
How many times do we turn the other cheek, not in the way that Christ turned His cheek, but to keep ourselves from seeing another person in need? I live in a big city where people make a living by holding a cardboard sign asking for money at every other corner. I have gotten good at turning another cheek, justifying my action by deciding that a con artist doesn’t deserve a quarter.
Jesus, on the other hand, took the servants’ role and washed the feet of Judas Iscariot, the disciple Jesus knew was going to betray Him, even as the Lord knelt at Judas’ feet at the Last Supper.
From us humans, blanket statements are dangerous, so don’t think I am trying to interpret this one verse to mean that women who are in abusive relationships are just supposed to keep getting hit or anything like that. We always have to take the Bible in its totality, not just in the one or two verses that seem to serve our purpose. It is the veracity and consistency of the Word that is part of the reason that we KNOW that we worship the one, true God.
Besides reminding me just how much God loves me, my ah-ha moment in the Word this week also has me thinking about ways I can up my game in the loving others department. I am a far cry from achieving Christ’s level of love, but He promised that the great Helper, the Holy Spirit, is in me to guide me on this narrow path that leads to the Light. I may stumble; I may fall; but Christ will always pick me up.
Through true repentance, I can continue to grow in God. Because of how He loved me, I may fall, but I will rise again.