I was a lousy, lousy, lousy high school student.
I’m sure my parents breathed a sigh of relief when I walked off the stage with a diploma in hand. And, I am just as certain, the faculty and staff of Walter Williams High School silently cheered, or internally asked themselves how did he graduate as I exited the stage.
Thankfully, one institution of higher learning in America took a gamble and admitted me— Greensboro College.
After granting my admission, it is still hard for me to believe that the director of admissions kept his job.
Even though he is no longer living, my entry into Greensboro College had something to do with Don Gumm. Don was the associate pastor and youth director at Davis Street United Methodist Church. Don took me for a tour and an interview.
Maybe the fact that I was Methodist had something to do with my acceptance. Greensboro College is a Methodist supported school. Perhaps, the school has an unwritten rule, we take all Methodists even if their performance in high school was as low as a submarine snoozing in the deepest canyon of the ocean.
I didn’t deserve to go to college. I wasn’t a troublemaker in high school, I was just a goof off.
Prior to high school, the last time I worked to my potential was in the sixth grade. Only school year in my life when I made the honor roll and had perfect attendance.
So it should be no surprise that on March 24, 1972, I received a Student Progress Report in Dr. W. P. Weaver’s Religion 102 class for failing. So much for the Sunday school classes, vacation Bible school sessions, and the Methodist Youth Fellowship meetings, none of that religion was helping me now.
Somehow, I turned things around in Dr. Weaver’s class and finished with a C.
And in truth, that C is probably my grade even today as I continue to work to understand and apply the Bible to my life.
Clearly, I am no theologian, and I really don’t want to be a theologian, but at times I struggle with the Bible.
Who knows, maybe you do too.
I wonder if that struggle accounts for the 61 translation of the Bible found on the website Bible Gateway?
Does that mean these translations were attempts by theologians and translators to make the Bible a better fit for real life application?
With my brain being the size of spider mite, I do not have the capacity to answer that question.
But, all these translations are an indication to me— that someone besides me was wrestling to make the Bible relevant—to make sense of it— and all of its “good, bad, and ugly.”
Additionally, I wonder if anyone has ever considered editing out all of the bad in the Bible? Just give us the good. But then, we would miss the stories of hardships, the misery experienced by people. I guess this would limit our learning.
I don’t know about you, but I really struggle with verses from the Bible like these two from James Chapter 1: “My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing, but joy. Because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance.”
How can a trial like life threatening cancer be a joy?
In that same line of thought, how can dying from COVID-19, being homeless, being unemployed, being falsely imprisoned, a life altering auto accident, abuse of any type, starvation— how can these be “nothing, but joy”?
I do not understand how these severe trials that people encounter everyday can be joyful experiences.
A creature of habit, earIy every morning, I read the daily devotional printed in the Upper Room. I also spend time reading and pondering the scriptures linked to each devotional.
Recently, I read the recommended scripture from Deuteronomy 10 verses 17-32. Iread a translation from the 1973 New Oxford Annotated Bible Revised Standard Version. That translation uses the word “terrible” twice in contrasting descriptions of God:
Verse 17—“For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the terrible God,”
Verse 21—“He is your praise; he is your God, who has done for you these great and terrible things which your eyes have seen.”
Just so you know, in current translations of the New Revised Standard Version, the New International Version, and the Common English Bible the word ‘terrible’ has been edited out.
I wonder what the reasoning was behind this edit? Maybe the editors saw it as a public relations move for God. How can we have a good God and a terrible God?
Remember, I’m no theologian.
And I guess for me that is my struggle, my questioning— if God is so good and if he is there with us in every nanosecond of life—why do these non-joyful things continue to happen to people?
God did not promise us a rose garden.
But, I will wrestle with that verse from James until I croak.
And, to be perfectly honest with you, I struggle with the division that the Bible causes. How we interpret and apply the Bible can often create divides in churches and in denominations.
I distinctly recall that the Bible directs us to love one another.
How can we love when some of the scripture interpretations in the Bible divide us?
Again, I will wrestle with this division until my last heart beat—wondering why we can’t overcome our divide with love?
If I even come close to entering the pearly gates, I imagine there will be quite an inquisition as my life is reviewed.
For certain, there will be lots of black marks by my name.
At least that’s how Alma Coble, our childcare provider, when I was a kid explained it to me.
God fearing Alma with no hesitation said when you do something wrong down here on earth, God, Jesus, or your designated guardian angel puts a black mark by your name.
All my black marks will be troubling for sure, but I anticipate hearing a more dangerous question like this.
Mr. Pike while on earth did you publish a blog called Might Be Baloney?
I will answer with a yes.
In those blog posts, did you ever on any occasion question the work of God, Jesus, or the contents of the Bible?
Again, I will answer yes.
And then, there will be an uncomfortable, extended pause of silence.
In that profusely perspiring pause, eventually, a throat will clear to inquire further, Mr. Pike, why did you question in such a manner?
Silence will reappear.
Impatience is ticking.
The guardians of the pearly gates are quietly thinking we’ve got him now.
My mind will stumble back to my childhood at Davis Street Methodist Church.
And I will mumble out this innocent reply: “Yes, Jesus loves me—for the Bible tells me so”.