Oh, continue your steadfast love to those who know you, and your righteousness to the upright of heart! Psalm 36:10
I love reading books and articles by people I know personally.
While any good book is worth reading, the experience is more enjoyable when I know the author because I can see little bits of them in their writing.
I discovered this in seminary when most of my professors had books that they had penned on the required reading lists for their classes. As the semester would progress and I got to know the professor better, I would catch myself reading with their voice and inflection in my head; almost my own personal book on CD. I still get tickled reading portions of Dr. Danny Akin’s books and articles and sermon manuscripts because I can tell when he was writing in a particularly passionate way and I can imagine him up on his tip-toes, leaning over the pulpit, preaching away on whatever point he happens to be making in print at the time. Dr. David Jones was my Sunday School teacher at Wake Cross Roads Baptist when I lived in Wake Forest, and when I am reading any of his works, I can imagine my Sunday school teacher right there in my office, explaining with stick figures on a dry erase board whatever mind boggling ethical point he is making in the book or article. Knowing the author and how much of his time, effort, passion and knowledge– how much of himself– went into the project makes me appreciate it even more.
It continues today. I love reading the blogs of friends and when I am researching something for my own writing, I tend to start with the writings of people I know and respect. Because I know them outside of their writing, I have a better context for what they are expressing in their work and it helps me understand it better.
For example, I don’t usually use the commentary provided with the Sunday School material at church (Shhh… don’t tell), but this quarter, Dr. Allan Moseley wrote the commentary on our study of Jeremiah and Lamentations. Dr. Moseley was the Dean of Students when I worked in the Student Life office at Southeastern, and I have heard him preach and speak on numerous occasions. Because I know him, I wanted to read what he had to say about the lessons I am teaching in my class. It’s not that I don’t trust other people who write the commentaries provided; there’s just extra incentive for me because I care about what he has to say simply because I know him.
Same principle applies to fiction. My friend Greg Wilkey recently published an e-book through Barnes and Noble. Greg was my department head when I taught at an area school, he and his wife attended our church for a time and I have been friends with his sister-in-law for several years. This character and book series are his passion, and to see it in print and be able to read it has been a joy for me because I know how much he loves it and how hard he has worked at it. It has been even more fun because, as I read, I am able to see those bits of his heart and soul in the characters in the story; the average reader would simply miss that level because they don’t know Greg. Those who know him much better than I do would probably tell you they love the book even more than I do because they love and know Greg more than I do.
Point being is this: there is a deeper meaning and understanding to any work of art (especially writing) when you know the writer.
The same principle applies to the Bible. The more you know and love God, the more you see Him in His writing, then the more you appreciate the deeper meaning and subtle references to Himself that mark the Word from Genesis to Revelation.
Here’s where most people trip up when reading the Bible– they read it for historical value or as an instruction manual or self-help book. While there are certain components of each of those genres of writing in the Bible, it is, more than anything else, an autobiography. It is God’s story of Himself to, for and concerning His people.
If you read the Bible and don’t understand it, or you think it’s boring, try reading it first as God’s autobiography. Approach it with the attitude of wanting to first learn all you can about the Author. You will find Him in every story, every law (even the weird ones like the ones about mold removal and sleeping with your clothes on), every piece of instructive teaching, every prophecy. Read it through the filter of this question: What can I learn about God? Get to know the Author. Learn about how much He loves His readers. Learn about the heart behind the writing of the book. Find out about God’s passion and it will become your passion. The more you know the Author, the more you will appreciate His Writing.
The catch with the Bible is that, because it’s first and foremost an autobiography, you have to read it to get to know the author. So read it, even if you don’t always understand it. Read it and compare it to the “writing” God has done in Creation. Read it and ask other people you know about it. If Oprah can start a world wide book club, surely you can ask a friend what they think about the Book you’re reading.
But before you write it off as history or myth or boring or impossible to understand, make sure you know the Author, because sometimes, knowing the author makes all the difference in your reading experience.