The Rev. Bill Coates: Loving the Bible as record of God’s handiwork

I love the Bible. The fact that people fight over it, misuse it, and don’t know how to read it is not the Bible’s fault. There will always be people hungry for power who will use the Bible as a weapon in their arsenal.

A great aunt of mine used it — abused it — to frighten and bully me with it when I was a child, and I sensed even then that there was something not right about her use of the Bible as a source of condemnation and pessimism. Because I always thoroughly disliked being around her, I can readily understand why so many people are turned off by churches and preachers who use the Bible much as she did.

Fortunately, my pastor’s educated mind and humble service, along with my mother’s gentle and loving spirit, countered the negative and judgmental heart of my aunt and the many like her. 

I love the Bible because it is inspired. God inspires me, speaks to me as I read it, and calls me to want to be more — more loving of all people, even my enemies, even those completely unlike me; more understanding of my small place in this big world; more aware of the presence of the Holy in life; and more eager to understand through science and learning the mysteries in our experiences and in our world.

I love the Bible because it is honest, unvarnished, transparent. It starts with “In the beginning, God.” It refuses to hide or excuse the faults or imperfections of the people, like Moses the stutterer, David the adulterer, Peter the prejudiced and Paul the persecutor, whom God chose and used in spite of themselves. It asks universal questions and speaks to the lives and longings of all people.

I love the Bible because it is salvation history — the record of the work of God in human lives, and the culmination and embodiment of it all in the life of Jesus. The Bible says that history, for all its pauses and regressions, is going somewhere, moving inevitably in a direction that God wants. It boldly claims that faith, hope, and love will remain no matter what — and that love will win over hate and violence and all the damage that go with those two.

Of the thousands of books that I have read and the hundreds that I love, the Bible is in a category apart from them all. That’s why I embrace it fully and call it holy and read it daily.

The Rev. Dr. Bill Coates is senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Gainesville. He can be reached at 770-534-7354 or kristiwright@mindspring.com.

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