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Finding Jesus In… The Bible (A “Duh, No Kidding” Blog Post)

July 14, 2012

Many years ago in Chicago before the fall of the Iron Curtain (No, not the Pittsburgh Steelers) I spoke with a couple whose real names I didn’t, and still don’t know. They couldn’t give me, or anyone they didn’t know well their real names because they were international fugitives. They were wanted by Russian authorities. The United States government wasn’t all that thrilled with them either.

They were international smugglers.

They worked for an organization called “Mission Possible” that smuggled Bibles into the Soviet Union. You see, even though there’s not a whole lot of tolerance and freedom for Christians in communist countries now, it was much, much worse before the Soviet Union collapsed. Owning a Bible was a serious offense, because Soviet Communism is an atheistic doctrine. Marx and Lenin frequently spoke and taught about their hatred for Christianity, how it diverted the minds, and more importantly the hearts of Communists away from the totalitarian rule of Communist leaders and philosophy. They saw the freedom and free-thinking of Christianity as a great threat to their iron-fisted grip on power. To them the Bible was a powerful and dangerous book.

But here and there among the Communist communities, a small home church would spring up. These home churches would meet under great secrecy, because being caught meant imprisonment, torture, and sometimes death. Christians who were taken away by the authorities were often never seen again. The Soviet police would pay people to try to find and infiltrate these “traitors to Communism”. These small rebel groups of Christians would get a Bible and tear it apart. Literally. They would each take sections of it, or even an individual page, and take it with them, reading what they had at home, taking it all in, and then trading pages with other members when they were ready for more. Bibles were a hot commodity in the Soviet Union. Literally. Once, when smuggling Bibles inside the panels of a van, the couple from Mission Possible was stopped and searched. The police tore the panels of the van off and found the Bibles. The man in charge spoke to them very angrily, telling them how bad they were for doing what they were doing and that it was a very serious offense. He let them go with a “warning”. Being let go was initially a curious thing to them. They had expected, and were mentally preparing themselves for prison, maybe even torture. It had happened to people they knew who had been caught. But they noticed something while the police were taking the Bibles out of the van. The police weren’t taking the Bibles and throwing them away into the nearby trash containers or someplace where they could be burned; each was taking as much as he could carry with him. The Bibles would command a high price on the black market. They were valuable.

In the days of the early church there weren’t any printing presses, much less ebooks. Everything was written by hand on scrolls, and this was a time-consuming and expensive endeavor. It took great care and a steady hand. The people who copied manuscripts were paid around four days wages for the copy of a single book. In today’s money, even at United States minimum wage, that’s $232 just for the Gospel of Mark. All 66 books of the Bible would cost you over $15,000, as much as some new cars. Now I’m sure some of you might’ve tried to haggle a bit on the price of an entire Bible, “The book of Ruth is really short! Jude is only one chapter!”, but I’m not sure you’d get very far.

In the days of the early church, congregations would pool their money together for a copy of a Gospel or one of the apostles letters (which later would become a book of the New Testament). In the ancient world only about 20% of the men could read, so what would happen when a congregation received a Gospel or letter is that they would all get together and listen to someone read this new book, this Word of God. And they would listen with an intensity unparalleled by anything else.

Today in the western world we can purchase a Bible not for $15,000 but for a relatively cheap amount. Sometimes Bibles can be purchased at a “dollar store”. Many Bibles are available for free download. In the western world we have access to the Word of God that is unparalleled for its ease in the history of the Bible.

Today there’s a burgeoning church in China, a communist state that historically has persecuted Christianity but in recent times has let up considerably. Not totally, but it’s a change for the better. And Chinese Christians, many of whom are very poor, are desperately needing and seeking ways to get Bibles. To Chinese Christians without a Bible, it’s the most valuable thing they could possess. “Twilight” books in China, on the other hand, are often traded for a short piece of string or shredded and used for kitty litter. Ok, I made the thing about “Twilight” up. But I can see it happening.

And we in the western world, where many of us can’t remember ever not having access to a Bible, can go days without reading it. Sometimes longer. We’ll say to ourselves “I’ve already read that part”, “this part is just chronology, it’s not important” and other things that keep us from it. Or maybe a new (shudder) “Twilight” book comes out that you just have to read. I’ll confess to the first two, and more, but not “Twilight”. But I know you’re out there. You know who you are 🙂

The thing here is this: Are you sure you know everything the Bible has to say to you? If we’re realistic and honest, the truth is we haven’t read it enough. We haven’t studied it enough. I know these things apply to me. I know they apply when I become angry, or worried, or jealous, or even hateful. Or apathetic. The Word of God sets me straight, shows me the right path; it reminds me who I am and who God is and what He’s done and what He does and why it’s such a good idea to follow Jesus.

In the ancient world, Jews, and then Christians were called by other people “The people of the Book”. They weren’t known for their battles, or art, or philosophy like others in the ancient world, they were known for a book. Because this book was the most important part of their culture. It defined who they were as a people.

Jesus loved the book that we call the Old Testament. Jesus was a person of the book. He knew every word. Every word. And He would often quote from it, sometimes as it talked about Him.

Today Christians are the “people of the book”. Or we should be. Think about this: Would the people around you, the people who know you, the people you meet call you “a person of the book”? Would they recognize you as a follower of Jesus? Would they recognize you as someone who follows what Jesus teaches in the Bible? Would they identify you as someone who loves the Bible? If someone who was seeking Jesus asked you, right now, a question about who He is and what He did and what He taught, are you sure you could answer any and every question? Are you sure? For myself, I’m not entirely sure. I’m not. I’d like to think I could answer any question, but the truth is how can I know what it is I that don’t know? Maybe there’s things I’ve forgotten. Maybe there’s things I missed. There’s quite likely things I’ve yet to learn from the Book. From Jesus.

This book, the Bible (by the way, “Bible means “book”. But you already knew that, right?) is a simple and easy inside track to knowing who Jesus is; His life, His teachings, His sacrifice for our redemption. You can Find Jesus in this book. Take advantage of that.

To learn how you can help supply Christians in China with much-desired Bibles check out the link below.

Bibles For China

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From → Christianity, Jesus

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