You aren’t supposed to put coffee cups on Bibles (or any other drink for that matter). This I heard early on as a child from Sunday School teachers and concerned adults. Christians were supposed to treat their Bibles with respect, even though I came to realize that many didn’t actually spend the time to find out about its content. Some folks keep a copy of the Good Book on the dashboard of their car or carry a pocket size New Testament around in their coat pocket. I’ve even heard a story or two about soldiers who say that that little Gideon testament actually saved their lives, not so much about the eternal kind of salvation but rather stopping a bullet before it penetrated their bodies. Having a Bible around is still a popular notion, as it continues to be a best selling book year after year.
It’s never occurred to me to do something damaging to the actual, physical paper that the words are recorded on. Come to think of it, I did do something similar to that in a sermon years ago. I started naming things in the Bible about “loving God with all our heart” and “loving our neighbor” and “not robbing God” as so on (had to get that tithing emphasis in there). Whenever I finished reading one of those verses, I’d say, “Now, we really don’t believe that” and then I’d slowly tear the page down the middle so folks could get the idea. I did this several times and you can guess the reactions. The truth is, I didn’t really tear the Bible but did this to other copies of paper. The folks in the pew looked relieved after I told them but turned sour afterwards. They didn’t think kindly of that little stunt, and I’m glad to say I have found other ways to get my point across. Even so, I wasn’t fearful of bodily injury, which would have proven my point after all that talk about loving each other.
Apparently, folks in Pakistan are pretty intense about the Koran. Two Christians have been sentenced to 15 years hard labor for tearing a few pages in the Muslim holy book. They were guilty of burning some pages and convicted of blasphemy by a Pakistani court. These individuals could have faced a death penalty. Christians account for only 3% of the population, and those in the minority complain that the law is used to harrass them www.baptiststoday.org. It’s ironic that the Pope can get criticized for his views on Islam being a violent religion when this sort of thing takes place in the Middle East. These Christians were in danger of losing their lives, so in effect the judge was doing them in a favor by putting them behind bars. So much for freedom of religion.
Some folks might appreciate this sort of high regard for the Koran and wonder why more Christians don’t have a similar kind of respect for the Bible. It’s a good question. There is a lot of talk about the inerrancy of the Scripture in Baptist circles. This is a tired argument as far as I’m concerned, as the whole deal really boils down to interpretation. You’d be hard pressed not to find a Baptist who doesn’t have a high view of the Bible, although this inerrancy thing is a source of debate that I won’t get into here. I hear a lot about affirming the Bible as a whole but not so much attention placed on some of the teachings contained between the leather covers. We all have our canon within the canon.
My thinking is that this sort of militant mindset is foreign to the teachings of Jesus Christ. The kind of respect we ought to have for the Bible doesn’t necessarily relate to how often we are seen in it’s company. It doesn’t have anything to do with how much we claim to be “people of the book” all the while holding grudges toward our brothers and sisters in Christ. Of course, these are people who don’t believe the Bible as much as we do. It doesn’t even depend on your putting a Ten Commandments sign in your front yard (you can’t even read those things from the road). These are superficial displays of religion when they don’t measure up to the “mind of Christ” that the Apostle Paul talked about.
There are so many ways we “tear our Bibles” that it wouldn’t do to start listing them. There are enough people talking about how much they believe the Bible. It’s time that we start seeing folks living out that book that is held so highly. I recall the saying “I’d rather see a sermon, than hear one any day.” It’s tough “turning the other cheek” and “speaking the truth in love.” Let’s make sure we keep the ‘love’ part in there. Christians, and Baptists in particular, can be downright meanspirited toward one another. We ought to live not so much by the letter of the law but by the spirit of the law. “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love” (I Cor 13:13). It is a lofty ambition to live by this triad of virtues, but the Advent season may well be the best time to try.