The “blog challenge” on RevGalPals today is to write about your five favorite Bible verses. And those who have posted their responses hit on all kinds of beautiful, heart-warming, challenging, encouraging passages of scripture. I’ve appreciated being reminded of the many words of love and hope contained in the Bible.
But I’ll be honest here. Trying to choose “favorite” Bible verses doesn’t feel quite right to me. Maybe it’s akin to trying to choose a favorite child. Or probably it’s more like choosing a favorite teacher–and I fear my tendency is to select the teacher who is likely to give me the best grade for the least amount of work.
1) I’ll play along with my first selection, because, right or wrong, I do have a favorite. It’s Romans 12:1-2:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—God’s good, pleasing and perfect will.
It’s what I long for in my Christian walk: God’s mercy, my sacrifice, true worship, transformation, clarity about God’s will.
My other four selections are narratives rather than a single verse or two. (Is this cheating?) And they aren’t necessarily “favorites,” but they are stories that I think get it right about us, about people who are struggling to live in relationship with the Almighty. Stories that make us say, “Oh. . . . Ummm. . . . Yeah.”
2) Abraham and Lot Part Ways (Genesis 13) These two are family. They have been together for years. But they accumulate so much stuff that the land can no longer sustain both of their households. Rather than say, “Hey, lets get rid of some of this stuff,” they decide to move apart. It’s really a tragic story. And a true one.
3) Jonah (You’ve got to read the whole book.) So much of Jonah’s story is painfully familiar, and we often talk (especially we pastors) about the futility of “running away from God.” But I am most struck by the end of story. By Jonah’s anger when God shows mercy to the Ninevites. How deep is human desire to see people get what they deserve? I know it is too deep within me.
4) Jesus Feeds the 4,000 (Matthew 15: 29-38) A good miracle is always nice. But here’s what I really love about this story. Jesus says to his disciples, “We should feed these people before they head home.” And the disciples reply, “Where will we get enough food to feed so many people?” These are the same disciples who have just seen Jesus heal the Canaanite woman’s daughter, heal many within the crowds, walk on water, and feed 5,000 people. In all earnestness, these disciples ask, “Where will we get enough food to feed everyone?” At least I can say I am a true disciple.
5) Paul and Barnabas Split Up (Acts 15:36-40) First we read about how the early church resolves the conflict over whether and how to include non-Jews within the community. Then we read about how Paul and Barnabas have an argument regarding whether or not to take John/Mark with them on their journey. Whereas the entire body of believers was able to reach a decision regarding a major theological issue, these two men cannot find a way through their argument about the merits of a co-worker. So they go off in different directions, each taking a new partner.
My Old Testament professor, Dr. Thomas McDaniel, told us that the Bible is “the Word of God about the ways of God and about the ways of God’s people.” Sometimes it is the Bible’s word about God’s people that rings most loudly in my ear, that reminds me how deep my need for God is, that announces grace in a language I can understand.