I’ve never been much for memorizing bible verses. I’m referring to the typical way we go about memorizing the bible – a verse here and verse there – written down on a flashcard and placed on a mirror or fridge. Why? I think it trains us to think of the Bible as a book of isolated verses rather than a unified whole with a context that defines and gives meaning to each individual verse.
For instance we memorize and quote Matthew 5:13-15, “you are the salt of the earth…you are the light of the world“, and in so doing we simply believe Jesus is referring to us. But the context clearly defines the “you” in those verses and it may or may not be us. Memorizing individual verses apart from their setting leads us to distort what scripture is actually saying.
Is there a better way to familiarize ourselves with the Bible? Yes! And it doesn’t require flash cards.
Think of the first time you took your commute to work. If it wasn’t already a familiar place, you may have arrived at your job and not remembered the whole of your drive. Maybe a certain curve stuck out in your memory, a landmark or a sign. But as the days and months went by that stretch of road became a little less mysterious. The bold sights that once attracted your eye began to fade with repetitiveness and more unassuming details took their place. Whole sections of the road began to fill in, anchored around those original markers. Eventually even the smooth flat road seeped into your mind. Unconsciously, bit by bit, it was there when you tried to recall it. So one day, without perhaps even realizing it, you knew the road like “the back of your hand.”
Knowing and understanding Scripture comes about in much the same way as our repetitive drives to work. On the first reading we may find a verse here and there resonating in our mind like an eye catching sign. But they hang isolated and alone, with nothing remembered before or after. Its only through repeated reading that these significant gaps begin to fill in.
So how should we go about acquainting ourselves with scripture. The answer is just keep reading!