For years, my wife and I complained about our dining room table. Some friends had sold it to us. It came with a modern flair, but no manual. Once we set it up, we found two flaws in its design. First, there were sharp corners where the legs connected to the main section. For years, we had to protect our children from injuries by padding these edges with gauze and tape. Worse, no matter how often I tightened the legs, the design flaws in this table caused it to wobble. Sometimes when guests were over and the table was stacked with food and dishes it swayed like a tree in the wind and the fear of a mighty collapse was always before us. The next morning I was inevitably found under the table, tightening the legs once again.
And then we moved. I reassemble the table in our new house and by mistake I reversed the legs. Immediately the table was stable and the sharp edges were gone. With a red face, I announced to my wife, Lin, that the legs had been attached backward for years.
If only the table had come with an instruction manual. Some people, like me, need manuals. This is especially true when it comes to living the Christian life. Without a manual, many of us will always find need to cover our rough edges. And our spiritual walk will always seem to have a wobble. Effort will be made, year after year, to conceal the sharp edges and to repair our instabilities. Prayers will be offered, church services attended, and Christian seminars and books digested. Still, the sharp edges and the spiritual wobble persist.
God has given us an instruction manual. We must live by it. We were never meant to read a manual like a list of want-ads, turning to the sections that interest us most, and ignoring the rest. Imagine trying to construct a detailed model by reading only certain, isolated parts of its manual. And yet that is how we treat the Bible.
Think, for example, about the Holy Spirit. There is much misunderstanding today about this topic. The Spirit of God is given to us for our unity (Ephesians 4:3). How odd that we have come to understand the Spirit in a way that causes so much disunity. It need not be so. God is described in the Bible as three persons, or parts, and all working together. The Spirit was given to honor the Son, who came that we might know the Father. Inversely, the Father’s love is demonstrated by the coming of the Son, whose presence is made real to us through the Holy Spirit.
If we will take time to read the entire Bible and to study all of its parts, we will come to know the fullness of God that we might experience the wholeness of God’s purpose in our lives. The love of the Father will remove our rough edges, the message of life through the Son will motivate us to invite others to the table of God’s grace, and the power and guidance of the Spirit will keep us stable.