Growing up in the church I often heard the phrase, â??apply the bible to your life.â? We even could purchase the â??Life Application Bible.â? The operative move is to study the Scriptures and apply them to life. What if we had our subject and object in the wrong place?
You see, applying the bible to my life makes my story, narrative, primary. In doing so we find it difficult when we face one of the hard â??sayings of Jesus,â? at least hard in our cultural context. For example, in our local primaries it seems important to tout adherence to the second amendment, the right to bear arms. I will not quibble over the â??rightâ? but think the implications of the â??rightâ?? something worth considering.
My â??rightâ? to bear arms, in context, means my first move may not be a peaceable move. Lance told me the story of a family outing floating a river. They had stopped along the way for a break. A fellow, obviously inebriated, made untoward comments directed at the females in Lanceâ??s group. Evidently this fellow was a â??meanâ? drunk and sought to pick a fight. He pursued the group who had set out to finish the trip. Reaching Lanceâ??s group the fellow created such a stir some canoes tipped over and a bit of a panic set in. This fellow came bearing an oar â?? not to help but to assault. His target was a smallish fellow not interested in a fight. Obnoxiously the threatening continued. Lanceâ??s son, a black belt and well versed in MMA (multiple-martial arts) managed to get behind the intruder â?? that is, this fellow intruded on their otherwise peaceful trip.
Seeing what could turn ugly, Lance shouted at the fellow, â??In the name of Jesus stop.â? Bewildered by such an unexpected retort, the fellow dropped the oar from its raised position and began playing the adolescent game of â??he/she started it.â? Cooler heads prevailed and the group traveled on.
Later Lance chatted with his son who noted he was prepared with a particular move that would have killed the fellow. Continuing to describe what he would have done, Lance told his son that is not the course to take. Possessing the â??armâ? does not mean using the arm. But, it certainly makes it for many a primary option. The right does not constitute the proper ethical response.
When Jesus says we should â??love our enemiesâ? and â??pray for those who persecute usâ? he does not address our right but the proper ethical response to the â??other,â? even the â??belligerent other.â? It may be a civic right and a chosen conviction. But, for the one who follows Jesus the right cannot supersede the ethic of Jesus.
I could apply the bible to my life and work the angles of â??self-defenseâ? and choose a militia like response â?? ready to do battle at the beckon call. Something like Peter bearing his â??armâ? in the Garden. But, it may be I need to apply my life to the bible. Rather than force the story of God to fit my life, this means wrapping my life around the story of God.
It was refreshing to hear Dave Dunbar and Todd Mangum describe the hope of Biblical Seminary to train leaders who get the subject and object in the right order. Wrapping our lives, applying our lives to the bible, constitutes the kind of re-ordering of life rising from our response to the call of Jesus, â??follow me.â?