Lecher or lover: how do you live the Bible?

Posted: 10th April 2009 by ElShaddai Edwards in Faith & Theology, Uncategorized

With a huge HT to Rick at This Lamp, I’ve been reading Eugene Peterson’s Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading and have found it captivating, at least the early chapters that I’ve been through.

With the title taken from John’s experience of eating the scroll in Revelation 10, Peterson’s essential premise is that the meta-form of the Bible is narrative and that by the merging of imagination and faith with a captivated desire to read as if we were gnawing on a bone, we insert ourselves into God’s revealed story and make it the central authority of our lives.

Without this text, firmly established at the authoritative center of our communal and personal lives, we will founder. We will sink into a swamp of well-meaning but ineffectual men and women who are mired unmercifully in our needs and wants and feelings.

These last three things – needs and wants and feelings – Peterson identifies as a modern replacement Trinity, where we replace God with ourselves as the central authority in our lives. Selfish instead of selfless.

As I chewed on these passages, I thought of an analogy, perhaps imperfect, but that seems to fit. If you will, think of a lecher and a lover. Both find something attractive in the form or function of another person. Whether it is physical or emotional does not matter. Both may linger over soft curves or sculpted chests, reciprocated respect or unfettered feelings, both enjoying the attraction that consumes their desires.

On one hand, the lecher is private. By that I mean that the attraction they feel toward the object of their attention is for the purposes of making themselves feel good. They derive pleasure from someone else, but for the purpose of their own enjoyment. There is no reciprocity of feeling; the lecher doesn’t make the other party similarly feel good, that is if the other party is even aware of the attraction.

On the other hand, the lover is communal. The attraction they feel toward the object of their attention makes them feel good, like the lecher, but added is the reflection of that good feeling back toward the object of their attention. The primary purpose of their attention is not to derive pleasure but to give pleasure to the person they are in relation with. The other party cannot help but be aware of the attraction as they are receiving positive affirmation of their self.

So, with this analogy in mind, I ask: when you read the Bible, are you a lecher or a lover?

Do you read the Bible to derive pleasure for yourself, delighting in literary linguistics, theological hairpins or grammatical nuances, or do you read the Bible to absorb and reflect the beauty of God’s narrative onto the people who surround you in life?

Do you read for private pleasure or for public practice? Is your imagination and faith focused on systematic learning, the dissection of a corpse of information, or are your affections given to the living, the reflected attention of the hands and feet of Christ?

On this Good Friday, when we remember Christ crucified on the cross, it is easy to remember his death. But in less than 36 hours from now, we will be celebrating the resurrected living Word. As the practice of that celebration, make sure that you are focused on the world beyond you, not a stage where you sit leering at passersby, but the living world we are called to love.

  1. Iris says:

    Excellent post and I agree with you — an excellent book by Peterson. I have included your link in the body of my blog post this morning. I pray several visit and read. Blessings.

  2. Thank you, Iris, I have really enjoyed reading Peterson. Have a blessed Easter – He is risen!