Malcolm is in the studio once again for “Running the Race” where we look at a different aspect of the Christian life. What have you got for us today?
Today, I want to think about reading the Bible with other people.
That’s a great way to read the Bible, because you’re talking to people, you’re getting different interpretations, I suppose, different opinions on what’s being said. But maybe it’s not always the easiest thing to do. Do you have some advice on why this is such a good thing to do?
There are a couple of things. A few years ago, I went over to Nepal, a great country, a beautiful country, and God’s creation. I had the joy of seeing, from a distance, Mount Everest. And I really enjoyed that, but I went a year or two later with my daughter. And she came with me, and we both got a chance to see Mount Everest. And while I enjoyed seeing it both times, there was something beautiful and mutually encouraging when there was somebody else there with me to enjoy the moment. And it’s a bit like that in reading the Bible.
Many of us read the Bible independently, and that’s a very positive thing, and a good thing, and a habit that we should employ. But there’s something delightful when you read the Bible with somebody else. It’s almost like you’re traveling on a journey with somebody, and you can enjoy the journey together. Whereas when reading the Bible by yourself, it can feel meaningful and it’s significant but there’s something nice about interacting with somebody else.
It says in Psalm 1 that people who read the Bible, “They delight in the law of the Lord and they meditate on it day and night.” The righteous, He says, are like trees playing along the riverbank bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do. When we read the Bible with somebody else or when we read the Bible personally, there’s an element that our roots sink into the ground. God’s life is really poured into us, and we find this blessing that comes when we read God’s word. And I think the value in reading it with others is that we bear fruit together. We strengthen each other in Christ.
Now, I know that not all of us are readers. I met a lot of people who are still waiting for the Bible to come out on Netflix. They’d love to see it in that version. But the way it is, God has written His word down and scripturated it for us. And the value in reading it with somebody else is that you can sometimes get to a point where you don’t understand something. So even just having something to say, “What do you think that means?” is really helpful. Also, how does that challenge you? What do you think about that? What difference does that make to your life, to my life? And so when you have somebody there, it’s almost like a sounding board. You can bounce ideas, but as the Bible says in Proverbs, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” You can sharpen somebody else when you’re looking at the very same thing, but somebody’s got a different set of eyes, and a different attitude coming to the text. It can really be helpful and encouraging.
You’re a dad and I’m guessing you read the Bible with your kids and do you have tips on how to do that well?
I do. And I think being realistic, as I’ve probably mentioned in other shows, I think not putting the Bible low but being realistic. So we, at the moment, are reading through the Book of 1 Kings. We read a chapter after dinner. Now, depending on what day of the week and how tied the kids are, that can be a real hit or it could be a real shemozzle. But we’ve learnt over a period of time just to mix it up a little bit. So we like to read narrative. We like to read the stories of the Bible. Other times, we might just read a verse. I might read the Bible or we might read the Bible as a family as a whole. Sometimes it’s just with each individual child.
Anyway, our children are getting to the age where they’re reading the Bible independently which is terrific, but we do like that idea even at the dinner table, even just to do something as simple as reading a verse, and saying, “Hey, what do you guys think?” And I’m amazed, even though I’ve done quite a bit of studying the Bible, that my nine-year-old, she’ll come out with some real pearls of wisdom. And I’m thinking, “Where did that come from?” And it’s just a fresh set of eyes on the text. And you know what? When we meditate together, it can be a nine-year-old providing great insight that’s going to build me up in my faith. But whether it’s a nine-year-old, whether it’s a colleague at work, whether it’s a friend, whether it’s an older Christian, there is certainly value in studying the Bible with others.
It’s a great encouragement to grab your Bible, call up a friend, and say, “Hey, wanna get together?” And I reckon we can have another conversation another time about reading with a non-Christian and the value of that. Thank you so much, Mal.
Each Sunday, FRESH presenter Sam Robinson chats with Malcolm Gill, lecturer at Sydney Missionary and Bible College (SMBC), about different aspects of living the Christian life—or ‘running the race’. Hear them on air Sundays at 6.20am and 9.20am or on FRESH just after 9pm each Saturday.