stop applying the bible!

A key word often associated with reading the bible is “application.” How does this ancient text of scripture apply to our lives today? As a teacher and preacher of the bible, I’m constantly wrestling with how the complex message of the bible is relevant to our complex lives. As Christians we want – and need! – our beliefs to connect with everyday life. Important stuff!

But I actually think it’s time we stop applying the bible!

Or at the very least, we need to stop making application our goal.

In his book, The Cost of Community, Jamie Arpin-Ricci offers an alternative worthy of reflection:
In application, we take a new insight, idea or truth and apply it to our existing way of life, like adding a LEGO block on top of another. Considering the implications requires that we examine our entire way of life—our assumptions, our expectations and our every choice—in light of this new understanding or conviction. It is being willing to make any change, no matter how difficult or demanding, if it means being more faithful as a disciple of Jesus Christ.   
If application is our primary goal in reading the bible, we risk adopting a limited faith, one in which we seek answers to life’s question without examining life itself. We can forget that following Jesus rarely offers solutions (i.e. application) for our problems in life. Instead, following Jesus offers a solution for life itself. We need the implications of the bible to sustain us in the journey of faith – implications like faith, hope, and love to form our everyday lives. Living in these implications of the bible, application doesn’t need description as it’s embodied by our very lives. Application comes naturally.

I’ll close with words from a post several years ago on this very topic:
As we reflect on Jesus’ teachings, the implications of what he said will invariably lead to transformation of how we live. Application isn’t absent. Rather, application develops out of our wrestling with the implications of being a follower of Jesus in our specific contexts. This will be different for me. Different for you. Different for the CEO of a major corporation. Different for the roofer in Abbotsford. Quite simply, application isn’t given to us. Application is discovered.

Demanding easy applications attempts to “do” Christianity without having our lives transformed by the implications of following Jesus in our everyday lives. As difficult as it may be, I’d much rather explore the depth of implications than the emptiness of generic applications.


Anonymous said...

I'm wondering if our propensity to make application the goal stems out of the, "what's in it for me" idea. Good posts.

David Warkentin said...

Hi Jean - you touch on a central component to the challenge of application: our constant desire to consume EVERYTHING! - including spirituality and faith.

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