Last week, I spent 28 hours in Bible College lectures on the gospels. We covered a lot of ground, which really means we scratched a lot of surface. The more I learn about the Bible, the more glimpses I see of depths I have yet to explore. With more time, we could have studied the original Greek and picked apart the sentence structure, studied related historical documents and the lives of the writers and the political movements of the Roman Empire and it’s all helpful.
Knowing the historical details of the relationship between Jews and Samaritans in the first century, and the context of God’s command to “love your neighbour as yourself” in Leviticus, certainly does enhance my understanding of Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan. But I don’t have to know all those things to the get the point of the story. In fact, if I really want to know what Jesus was talking about, there’s a better way to find out:
I can obey it.
I can love my neighbour, even a stranger or an enemy, as I love myself. A little bit of that will teach me more about what Jesus meant in the parable than I could ever learn from its wider historical context or Greek syntax. A little bit of that could help me see what would motivate the Samaritan to do such things, help me experience the joy of giving myself for others, understand what love really is from the inside, and perhaps begin to glimpse why Jesus let it take him to the cross.
Do I want to learn more about faith? I could learn a lot by studying every instance the word is used in the Bible, and much more by actively trusting in God, living like his promises are true. Are there questions about why God says to leave vengeance to him or keep sex within marriage or be honest or practice thankfulness or anything else he tells me to do or not do? An in-depth study could put me on the right track, but I’ll never fully grasp the goodness of God’s commands until I live by them – it’s only then that his commands can do me any good.
I really enjoyed the Bible College course last week, but I know it’s no substitute for the greater school of obedience. Which is good news: Not everyone gets the chance to learn Biblical Greek, but everybody, everyday, can make the choice to trust and obey.