Friday, February 12, 2016

Losing Hope

I'm in a funk.  It's beginning to dawn on me that the very thing I've committed my life to--the object of my study--doesn't matter these days.

Now, before you correct my misplaced devotion (after all, we're supposed to be committed to Christ and his kingdom), I am fully aware that there is a difference between the Word of God and the word of God.  And, yes, I've committed my entire life to the former, the One who captured my heart, the Man who lived better than any person has ever lived, the very Son of God who reveals perfectly our heavenly Father, the hope of our salvation, the once-and-for-all sacrifice for our sins, the embodiment of our resurrection.  But, as the preacher in the book of Hebrews said so eloquently, Jesus is the Last Word of God found first and foremost in the very word of God--the Scriptures.  He warns his listeners over and over again:  We'd better listen to the word to hear the Word, because, if we don't, there's going to be big trouble.

Within the cacaphony of trivia that dominates our everyday attention, you'd think a more substantive, powerful, shake-your-soul-to-your-feet, gravitas-kind of word would feel like a drink of cold water in the middle of the desert.  (Is it just me, or are things getting worse?  My daily morning habit is to read a few .coms of news, check out a blog or two--even a so-called "Christian" blog that tells me the state of our faith "Today."  A few years ago, that would take about 30 minutes to an hour.  These days, I don't find much to read.  For example, this morning I clicked on nothing!  Nothing!  Nothing!  Perhaps I'm becoming that old curmudgeon that I used to despise in my youth.  But, I wonder to myself, "Does anyone read this nonsense?  Really?  Is this what should occupy our minds today?")  I read for a living.  I speak for a living.  I write for a living.  But, the very centerpiece of that devotion, the thing I treasure, what should occupy our attention in profound ways, is so marginalized today that I can't even get my students to pay attention to it in class.  The Bible doesn't matter.  And, the great irony is, they're taking a biblical studies class.  They don't read it before class.  They don't even have it open while I lecture on it.  They don't wrestle with what it says.  Rather, the majority of them sit and listen and take a few notes, hoping to pass the class.  Of course, I have a few students who care.  But that number is shrinking every year.

Sharing my disappointment recently, one of my colleagues assessed the situation like this:  these students of ours love the Bible.  They just don't care what's in it.

Same thing happens in church.  I'll invite my listeners to take their bibles and turn to . . . .  But there's no movement, little effort.  A few open the Scriptures (hard or e-copies) and try to follow along.  But, for the most part, the Bible is one of the most ignored things on Sunday mornings.  Trying to keep them engaged, I'll ask, "And what did Jesus say here?" or "And what was Paul's response in verse 24?"  Nothing.  Silence.  A few might fumble around trying to find the answer, as if surprised by the pop quiz.  But most stare back at me with that, "Are you finished yet?" look I've come to recognize so well:  in the classroom as well as in the church.

I'm afraid I'm becoming so discouraged that I might throw a fit in righteous indignation.  But that's such an ugly scene.  Doesn't do any good.  Besides, I don't want to be that guy.  I even prayed that this morning, "Lord.  Please help.  I don't want to be that guy."

But, I'm afraid I am becoming that guy, the old prof who reminisces about the good, old days--when people not only loved the Bible but also craved to know what's in it.

Honestly, I'm afraid the Scriptures don't matter anymore, and I wonder what the preacher of Hebrews would say.