I’m spending some time in Washington D.C. as a mission trip speaker for the week. It’s been a great time; great work has been done through a group of 100 High School students and their sponsors.
During one of my talks, I walked through Luke 15, the great trilogy of “missing items and wild parties” that Jesus shares as he responds to a critique from his opponents because he was hanging out with the wrong type of folk. When one reads the first two “missing stories” before reading the last parable, what is traditionally called “The Prodigal Son,” we might think differently about the Prodigal Son story, too.
After the talk, one of the host team members said “I enjoyed that talk, especially the content on The Prodigal Son story, I hadn’t heard that take on it before.”
That response was encouraging to me for it captured the essence of what Scripture should probably do, even for those of us who’ve become familiar with its content. Scripture is alive and active, therefore, we shouldn’t be surprised when it startles us. Perhaps one of the primary functions of Scripture is to startle and spook us. Much like the dad that wakes up one morning and is spooked by how fast his children have grown up, even though he’s been among them on a daily basis. He’s been there the whole time, but has somehow lost track of time.
The Christian tradition has searched for ways to describe the Bible, whether it be inerrant or infallible of other ideas. The Reformers used a term that is helpful, too, efficacy, or the effect the Bible has upon the believer and the community of faith, not just the content that one takes in while reading or hearing it. It’s like a person sitting in the middle of Advanced Algebra class entertaining the idea of becoming a Math teacher. It surely wasn’t the numbers that caused them to want to teach Math, but it was something else happening, something from a greater depth, we might even call it revelation or inspiration.
This mad way that the text has upon us, spooking us awake to what we haven’t seen before makes us into curious people. Curiosity is a lovely trait, right? I think that you’d agree that parties are better when curious people have the chance to shine.
It’s the standing-stillers, the assumers that cause me to look for the exit. Let me be honest, I get the impression that those who’ve lost curiosity, who claim to “have a handle on it all” aren’t reading, praying, or coming before the text anymore, even though the strength of their opinions try to convince us otherwise. They’ve “been there and done that,” and have moved on to other things. But they still have an image to upkeep and don’t like to be “out-Jesus-ed” by anyone. Their confidence is mere presumption, though. Presumption tends to chase away most of our friends. I find that stand-stillers become curious again when they realize that no one is around to hear their opinions, anymore.
Holy curiosity, on the other hand, just might change the world.