Loving Our Bible Characters As Ourselves

The very human lives of Bible characters

Our family is watching the second season of The Chosen. If you haven’t had a chance to watch this series, I want to commend it to you. I’ve always been a bit skeptical of faith-based productions, but this one is really thoughtful, biblical, and the production quality is incredibly high. Brett McCracken has a good write up here about why The Chosen works. I had the chance to interview the producer, Dallas Jenkins, last year.  

As we’ve been watching, it made me think about the way we treat the people in the Bible. It’s pretty easy for us to flatten our image of them as either “bad” or “good” in ways that don’t capture the nuance of their very human lives. I listened to a fascinating podcast last week about the approach we should take toward history. Collin Hansen, the host, said this: “It’s like your grandmother. Thinking that she can do no wrong is naivete, thinking that she can do no right, is arrogance, thinking that you’re a lot like her, is wisdom.” 

I think this is a good approach with our heroes in the Bible, mainly because this is how the Bible portrays them. This is one of my motivations in writing the Characters series of books. I wanted people to try to walk in the shoes of Joseph and Mary and the shepherds. What would it have been like to be them in that time and place in history? I wanted people to imagine themselves as Peter, who had great moments of heroic faith and low moments of failure. John was both the one asking Jesus to call down fire on his enemies and the one urging the people of God to be known by love.  

To worship the Bible characters is to think of them more highly than we ought. But to demonize the Bible characters is to not love the community of saints in heaven as we should. I think this is important for those of us who teach and preach the Word. It’s easy to crack open the gospels and rail on Peter for asking bad questions or sit in judgment of Thomas for his doubts or castigate Abraham, from the comfort of our well-fed and air-conditioned lives, for his sojourn to Egypt. We shouldn’t gloss over the sins and mistakes of our Bible heroes, because the Bible doesn’t do this, but we shouldn’t imagine, with chronological snobbery, that we’d make different choices. Wisdom is to think we are a lot like them. Wisdom is reading about Abraham and Peter and John and David realizing their imperfections all point us in desperation toward the one about whom Pilate could say: “I find no fault in him (John 19:4).” 

This Week on The Way Home Podcast

In this episode of The Way Home podcast I am joined by Melissa Fuller, the content director for Love God Greatly, an international women’s ministry aimed at equipping women around the world with Bible study resources. She has and infectious love for God’s word and helping women fall in love with Scripture and with Jesus. We talk about women in ministry, teaching women, theological education, and studying the Bible in the twenty-first century.

Listen here

Interesting Links

  • Elizabeth Breunig has an interesting take on forgiveness in the wake of the Chauvin verdict.

  • Timothy Paul Jones is a brilliant apologist and Bible scholar. His piece on the authorship of the New Testament gospel is really good.

  • You should read Tom Schreiner on hyperbole and spiritual discernment. This is a really good word for all of us, especially those who are quick to label people heretics.

  • Baylor scholar George Yancey on a well-meaning but misguided approach at racial healing.  

What I’m Reading

  • I’ve just started two books: Gospel Bound by my friends Collin Hansen and Sara Zylstra. It’s a refreshing look at what God is doing through ordinary Christians today around the world. I will have more to write on this in a future newsletter, but I think it’s important for us for our faith to look up and see where God is working. We are daily catechized by scandal and bad headlines and we can easily miss where what the Spirit is doing.

  • I’m listening to The Girls of Atomic City. It’s a wonderful read about the women who helped build a secret city in Oak Ridge, TN, just a few hundred miles from where we live, near Knoxville. Just listen to this description:  

    The incredible story of the young women of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, who unwittingly played a crucial role in one of the most significant moments in U.S. history. The Tennessee town of Oak Ridge was created from scratch in 1942. One of the Manhattan Project's secret cities, it didn't appear on any maps until 1949, and yet at the height of World War II it was using more electricity than New York City and was home to more than 75,000 people, many of them young women recruited from small towns across the South. Their jobs were shrouded in mystery, but they were buoyed by a sense of shared purpose, close friendships--and a surplus of handsome scientists and Army men! 

    Doesn’t that make you want to read? It did me. I’ll let you know how it is.

  • Lastly, I must mention that I just finished a biography of John Quincy Adams, who is, in my view, one of the greatest public Americans. Consider this resume: Ambassador to Britain, Germany, and Russia. Secretary of State. President. Senator. Member of U.S. House. Lawyer before Supreme Court. Founder of the Smithsonian. President of The American Bible Society. Abolitionist. Quincy literally died in the well of the U.S. House, having served his country until his final breath. He knew both George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Ok. I won’t go on.  

Personal Projects

Well, I’m about to begin writing The Characters of Creation. I’m excited to get started and am collecting books and commentaries on Genesis.

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