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KOEDYKER: Celebrating the role of the Bible in the time of the Reformation and today

• Oct 25, 2017 at 1:00 PM

I don’t know about you, but I am growing weary of all the negativity in our world today. It just seems to go on and on. Whenever will it end?

While listening to the radio the other day, I heard one well-known news commentator say that no one seems to care about others anymore. His sentiment was that everyone thinks only of self and one’s own viewpoint. If someone says or does something you don’t agree with, you go all out into attack mode.

I’d have to admit that that is often the case. But that certainly isn’t what God intended for us!

The emphasis of the Bible, in contrast to many in our world, is a positive one: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31) In fact, the Christian message has been for over 2,000 years that we ought to care about other people rather than destroy them.

How refreshing it is to hear words like this from the Bible: “Be devoted to one another in love” and “honor one another above yourselves.” Jesus takes it even further when he says, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:44-45)

It is interesting that when we see verses like this in the Bible instructing us to love other people, they almost always refer back to God first loving us. We are to love just as God has loved us. “Dear friends, let us love one another, says John the apostle, “for love comes from God.” (I John 4:7) And then he continues, “Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (I John 4:8)

So why do we see so much hatred, criticism and negativity in the world? Could it be because a lot of people simply do not know God? We would do well to know Him. Our world certainly could benefit from that! And the best place to come to know God is by reading the Bible.

Five hundred years ago, a German monk by the name of Martin Luther found a discarded Bible gathering dust in a corner of the monastery where he lived. When he started reading the Bible, it changed his life. And it also led to a world-transforming movement we have come to know as the Reformation.

Luther unleashed, as it were, God’s Word, the Bible, so that it could do its work in people’s hearts. Indeed, the author of Hebrews states that “the Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit. ... It judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

Luther realized the power of the Bible. Yes, he played a central role in the Reformation, but, as he later stated, “I did nothing. The Word did everything.”

I sometimes wonder if we realize the power, insight and blessing that the Bible has for us. If only we’d let it be active in us. And read it with an open heart.

Countless individuals through the years have had their lives changed because of the Bible. Why? Because they heard God speaking through it!

Over the years, I have had the privilege of supporting, writing for and being on the board of Words of Hope. This organization has put the Bible at the center of its radio ministry for more than 60 years spreading the good news of forgiveness, salvation and eternal life. The other day, I read about how Jon Opgenorth, the president of Words of Hope, met with two formerly Muslim men who recently converted to Christianity. One man was from Sunni background and the other was from a Shiite family. As we all know from the news these days, these two groups within Islam hate each other and are often at war with each other. But here they were — working together and serving on the same ministry team with great joy.

The two men could tell that Jon was surprised by their remarkable unity. So they said to him, “Why are you so surprised that a former Shia and a former Sunni can be reconciled? We are not Shia or Sunni, we belong to Jesus, and that changes everything.”

Indeed it does!

— By the Rev. John Koedyker, pastor of congregational care for First Reformed Church of Grand Haven.

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