A friend of mine who is a youth pastor in Texas is bracing herself for the aftermath of burning a Bible in front of her teens. You read that right, and there are no typos, she is burning the Bible. If it helps, she’s ripping out some pages first.
You might be experiencing some anger, curiosity, or panic right now, and that is perfectly natural. She is doing this as part of an illustration on the importance of scripture. I know it sounds counter productive to that thought, but here’s her play. Tonight she is going to ask her students to recite all the scripture they know, and as they do she’ll rip out that verse of the bible and give it to them. Once they’ve recited all the scripture they know, which if we’re being honest will probably be less than a handful of verses per student, she’ll burn the rest of the Bible. The students will be left with just a few short verses, most of them probably clinging to “Jesus wept”. The point she’s making is that scripture is something they “need to KNOW, to memorize scripture because someday they might not have it otherwise. That there are people all over the world who don't have it. And for them to neglect their study of scripture is way worse than me burning the Bible.”
She has already taken a lot of flak from other youth pastors who are horrified that she’s going to burn the word of God. But then again, I’ve had a pastor yell at me for laying my bible down on the pulpit and not holding it while I read scripture. People have been upset about seeing a Bible on the ground. I had a really old Bible that was falling apart and pages were missing from years of use, I didn’t want to just throw it away in case someone saw me so I wrapped it up in another bag and threw the bag away. There is this ideology about protecting or treating the Bible with respect. I’m one of the few that thought it was an awesome idea and thought about stealing it for our students.
As angry as I just made some of you, or as angry as everyone else is at this friend of mine, you would think that the Bible is incredibly important. Her illustration sparked conversations about how to treat a book, something that isn’t God but merely a representation of the word of God, and most people got seriously close to equating the paper and ink with God himself. People couldn’t get past a burning Bible to realize that the thing they felt so deeply about losing was the thing they neglect 99% of the time and the exact reason she was burning the book in the first place. If you were to ask me how many verses I have memorized, I’d stumble through a couple dozen or so but I would have next to nothing compared to what was burned.
A lot of people who care so deeply about not burning a Bible are the same ones who don’t care about it enough to read it every day. How angry are you that she’s burning the Bible? How angry are you that some of her students haven’t ever read the Bible outside of church activities? Jesus often had fun with the pharisees, who by the way loved the scriptures. I feel like they would be in the camp of never burn a Bible. But Jesus said “You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. Yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” The Bible is important, the most important book we have, but it isn’t God. The book itself isn’t even anything special. And unless we are doers of the word as well as hearers, it means nothing.
Nathan Persell serves as our Youth Director. When he's not leading devotions and playing basketball with teenagers, he enjoys disc golf and bike riding. Learn more about Nathan here.