What if a friend approached one of us and said, “I want to know God. I don’t want to hear what you think, I want to figure it out for myself. You’ve got a Bible; where do I start?”
For those of us pursuing a 1stFaith, where would we ask our friend to begin reading?
A friend of mine—who doubles as my father-in-law–gave me some insight on this the other day, pointing out that some in the Christian community want to start us at the beginning, in Genesis. To be fair to this perspective, this is exactly where I started reading, some 37 years ago.
Back in 1980 I had scarcely opened a Bible; much less read one. I was a senior in high school and to that point never saw a reason to spend my time reading some archaic tome I believed had no relevance to my life.
Through a series of circumstances, I did however, begin reading. But not knowing where to start, I opened to page one and Genesis. For a novice like me, there was a lot to slog through.
The good news is, I kept reading through the slow stuff—the various laws given through Moses, a ton of census numbers and various genealogies–and found fascinating stories which captured my attention.
But things don’t work that way for everyone. Would we really take a chance that our friend would make it through the Old Testament and its 23,214 verses before even reading the name of Jesus in Matthew?
And, it’s easy to forget the earliest Gentile Christians had no “Old Testament” (well, no New Testament either) because they weren’t Jewish. It’s not like copies were floating around for them to read. In fact, these new converts were told in Acts 15 to not even worry about Jewish law and what we call the Old Testament. For them, the issue was Jesus.
Am I thrilled that we have the Old Testament? Certainly. But for the seeker, it’s likely not the best starting point.
While I’ve read the Old Testament many times and will continue to do so, a 1stFaith—if we are to pass it along to a friend—might begin elsewhere.
Which brings us to another, popular, idea: Why not start in the book of John? Obviously, John is a great book—no doubt about that. But John is a somewhat complex book, too. When we have context, reading John is an amazing journey into the love of God (“For God so loved the world,” right?), and is a powerful introduction to the person of Jesus Christ.
But remember our challenge; to take someone who knows nothing of Jesus, nothing of the Old Testament, nothing of Jewish tradition . . . and toss this friend head-first into a book which can appear quite complicated.
Before we even get going, John talks of a “word” who was with God (Jn. 1:1), “was God,” became flesh and dwelt among us (Jn. 1:14). For someone with no context, things are already murky.
Yet just a few verses later (Jn. 1:18) we read from the same author, “No one has seen God at any time.”
Our friend, wanting a 1stFaith, might be extremely confused—but only if John were the starting point.
Again, the key is context, not content. John’s content is powerful, once we have context.
So where should our friend begin? Matthew? Mark?
How about at the door of master Luke (Star Wars references are free on this site), the physician? In Luke is the “Christmas story” so many families read, giving our friend seeking a 1stFaith a familiar and historical launching starting point on a journey toward a 1stFaith.
Luke carries us through one of the two most complete accounts of Jesus’ life (along with Matthew), but as we know, there is more to Luke’s work. He also wrote the Book of Acts, giving us a powerful picture of how the disciples became apostles and effectively advanced this new message.
If a first-time reader completes the Book of Luke and flips over to the first chapter of Acts, we find a flowing narrative, providing an overview of almost every facet of a 1stFaith.
From Luke, we know how Jesus got here, what he taught, how he died, of his resurrection and then, the story of how the apostles went from despair to victory, sharing the message of Jesus throughout the known world.
For anyone wanting to capture the core of Christianity, Luke is a logical starting point. And we—if we wish to “reboot” our faith and truly find the power of a 1stFaith–would be wise to start with Luke as well.