I try to be a good person. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I do not. Like anyone else, I have good days and bad days, and sometimes the bad days are really hard. It’s hard to be nice to others, it is hard to stay calm, it is hard to forgive people when they hurt me. I know that I am imperfect, that I will make mistakes. That it is only natural to falter sometimes, and that it is normal to feel the way that I do.
However, I know that no matter what, God will forgive me. He understands and loves me anyway. That knowledge can really help people through some trying times, when they feel that all is lost. Sometimes we don’t feel loveable at all, you know? Understanding that He loves us through it all can be our saving grace.
Perhaps that is why my favorite quote from the Bible comes from Colossians 3:13:
“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
Two perfect sentences!
It reminds me that there is a reason to be patient with those around me and offers me a gentle reminder to be kind to others, just as God is patient and forgiving of me. You never know what they are going through. You need to bear with people, just as you hope they will bear with you – just like in another great Bible passage: 1 Corinthians 13:7:
“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
That’s a tall order for the rest of us, for sure. But real love, like the kind God has for all of His Children, can survive anything. He believes in us, hopes the best things for us, will endure anything for us. And yes, He will bear all things for us. All our bad choices, all our destructive behaviors, all the terrible things we do to each other. He forgives it all.
And if God can forgive us all of that, the least we can do is tolerate each other. We all make mistakes. Nobody is saying you don’t have the right to be affronted or hurt by someone’s behavior. But you can choose to let those grievances go in the same way that God would forgive you. You don’t have to hold on to the things that have happened to you. You can release the other person from their guilt and sorrow over their actions toward you. You’ll feel better too, I promise.
If those passages aren’t enough to convince you, here is a short line that is another favorite of mine, Proverbs 21:3:
“To do righteousness and justice is desired by the Lord more than sacrifice.”
I believe that quote says it all: that if you do the right thing (which in most cases is to forgive those who have trespassed against us), God values that choice more than all the tithing, all the times we go without, all the things we give up.
I love these passages. What a beautiful thing forgiveness is, what a powerful gift the Lord has given us!
What about you, what parts of the Bible speak to you?
I love to sit in my pew every week and listen to the homily. Having a Bible passage explained by someone who has studied theology is always uplifting. But that is not the only way for the Scripture to be part of your life. You can read the Bible yourself and interpret it in a way that enriches your own life. I have a few ideas on how to do it, too.
My best recommendation is for you to join a Bible study group. You will likely find one at your church. These meetings are sort of like a book group, where people gather socially to talk about what they read and what they think about it. You can find all kinds of Bible study groups. Some are led by clergy, others are led by laypeople. There are some that focus on certain sections of the Bible or are for certain groups of people (i.e. a men’s meeting or a group for teens discussing behavior and values). These types of groups are both fun and fulfilling. You might make friends or learn a different way to look at a certain passage. Leading one is also a great way to give back to your spiritual community.
Don’t worry if a study group is not your thing. There is nothing wrong with reading the Bible on your own. You can start in either Testament, and work your way through. If that seems intimidating, remember that there is no reason to rush. You will get out of the exercise what you put into it – meaning that if you breeze through it, you might miss passages that could be comforting or enlightening. Using this method means you can focus on a section of the Bible you find most appealing, for example the Psalms or a certain book that gives you comfort. If you reach a passage that is confusing, you can reach out to your pastor or another clergy person with questions. I am sure they will be willing to sit down and talk to you about it.
If reading the whole bible on your own gets you confused, there are annotated Bibles. An annotated Bible is the same Gospel as a standard Bible, but includes detailed information that adds context to the Scripture. These types of Bibles can be helpful if you are trying to gain historical understanding of events in the Bible. However, they can be off-putting, as the annotations are often more secular in nature.
Another great option are daily readings or affirmations. There are some books you can buy that will focus on a specific passage or verse. There will be a specially selected passage for each day, selected for relevance and maybe a certain topic (for example, there might be an affirmation book for mothers, or passages selected for specific dates like holidays). If you look in a religious bookstore or online, you’ll be able to find one easily. Or you can ask around at your place of worship to get recommendations. There are also websites and apps that offer daily readings and interpretations.
Have you made an effort to read Scripture daily? If so, how did it go and what techniques did you use?