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Love letter from God to me?

It‘s popular to look at the Bible as a love letter from God to me. Whatever else you might say about this view (and there is much to say), it certainly personalizes God’s word which hopefully leads to an application of it in life. And whatever else is true, it is definitely God’s desire that the word becomes flesh in our lives rather than being merely an academic exercise or subject for debate (James 1:22-25, 2:14-26). Even though strictly speaking, the Scripture is written for us rather than to us, I know people who look at the Scripture as a love letter and ferociously practice it in their lives. May their tribe increase!

Having said that though, I think it’s generally true that if I speak of anything as being like a letter to me, we would have some expectation that it contained intimate, personal details that wouldn’t relate to anyone else. And that understanding can lead to problems.

For example, many take the love letter approach to mean they can select a few inspirational verses spoken to Jeremiah or Moses or Paul and take them as God speaking directly to them. This is an appealing approach because it emphasizes individualism (a big thing in our culture) and makes us feel significant (God is directly speaking to me) and maybe most important of all, leaves us free to decide “what it says to me” while someone else can decide what it says to them.  

In the end this is little more than a consumer approach to the Scripture because it is tailored to our likes and dislikes. Just listen to the people who tell us their reading of Scripture finds approval for sexual relationships outside of marriage, worshiping other gods, or whatever else has bubbled up in our culture that they seek approval for. The Scripture is sentimentalized and doesn’t call on anyone to make any hard choices. This can never be anything more than a small view of Scripture because it is largely centered in ourselves.

There is a bigger way of thinking about the Bible. It’s much more of a community view. The Scripture isn’t God’s personal letter to me, it is actually God’s word to many different communities of His people down through the centuries. As I open its pages and read its different books, I hear God as He speaks to people who were often quite different culturally but remarkably similar spiritually—and thoroughly human and eminently relatable in their strengths and weaknesses. As I read, I enter these communities that span the centuries and become part of them and they become part of me. I learn from their struggles and successes. I realize that while no book of the Bible is written to me as it was to these particular communities, it was written for me and as I read I find myself in their stories. And I become part of something much, much bigger than myself—I take my place with men and women who since the beginning of time have been part of the story of the people of God. 

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