One of the most interesting things that we find in the Bible is the fact that even in its earliest story, the Bible does not trust a singular witness. It gives us back-to-back accounts of the creation; accounts, by the way, that do not really line up. The book of Deuteronomy literally means "second telling," and I can go on. One of the many things this tells us is that what we think we know is not always the whole story and sometimes it may not even be correct.
In doing a deep study of the gospels, many come to a very disturbing realization that, like the creation stories or Deuteronomy, the story does not line up. With the exception of Matthew and Luke, the timeline is not even the same. Many atheists are quick to point this out. The problem is that throughout the history of the Bible and the people of the book, a small segment of people has wanted to read the Bible as if it were a cookbook that needed to be strictly adhered to and was correct in every way. This is problematic, since there are numerous contradictions.
The Bible was written in a way that mirrors life. There is a lot of information and a lot of little things we could focus on, but when we focus on the little things, we miss the picture of the whole. In doing so, we find ourselves disconnected from the faith that we long to have. This is one of those overarching themes of the Bible and especially the gospels. While the interactions and stories of what actually happens changes a bit in the gospels, the message of Christ does not: that we need to put our trust in God first, then we will better understand what is important.
It reminds me of an old friend I had when I first started out in ministry. This man was well into his retirement years, and for the first time in his life, he was finding joy in everything that he was doing. As a young man, he had always been angry and frustrated. He self-identified as a racist, among other things, and as he put it, was a real S.O.B. Today, we might have labeled him a bully, as he was always right and one would need to watch out if they were on his wrong side.
For him, something changed after the birth of his first grandchild. As he said, “When I was younger, I was convinced that I was right and everyone that did not agree with me was wrong and needed to be made right. But I was not happy. When my grandson was born, and I felt this incredible joy, I realized that the only thing that was important was to be with him.” That changed the way he approached everything. As he took a step back from the “facts,” he realized what really was important.
By taking a step back, my friend began to see the world very differently. He realized that many of the things that he based his life upon were not the things he should have; as he said, “They were incomplete understandings.” In one of our last conversations, he let me know that his greatest regret in life was that he spent so much time focused on being right and not on being good to the people around him.
I think that is true of so many things, whether it is relationships, or the Bible, or even ourselves, when we focus on small things, we often cannot fully be who we are called to be. So, take a step back and accept your place as a child of God, and you will see things in a whole new way!
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen