Familiarity breeds contempt, but the Bible still contains some beautiful sentiments
I love Monty Python. I used to watch it from an early age, laughing like a drain, and there was a time when I could recite pretty much any sketch on demand. I think I must own just about every Python DVD there is, but I don’t watch them very often these days, because I know it all. Just reading through the description of a show is usually enough, and it’s familiar enough without needing to watch it.
But sometimes I put one on anyway, and it usually surprises me. Just the smallest detail that I’d forgotten about can be incredibly arresting, all the more so when I thought I knew what was coming. It might be Conquistador Coffee, a Man Who Speaks in Anagrams or the Italian Lesson, but I can be caught out by a forgotten sketch or even a line. However much of a fan I am, I never quite know it all.
That’s how I sometimes feel about the Bible. I’ve read it all, I’ve spent a lot of my life studying it, and I often feel like it’s got no more to offer me. But just occasionally, it still has the capacity to take my breath away.
I’ve attended enough church weddings in my life, in various capacities, to have heard more readings from 1Corinthians 13 than I care to remember. I’ve heard it read in ways that were moving, monotonous or just hammy, but however it’s read, I’ve heard it more than enough. It became my only non-negotiable when I got married – I wasn’t having that reading under any circumstances.
Despite that, and my irritation at the way it’s so often understood to refer to romantic love, I have to admit that it’s a brilliant passage. Along with the description from Galatians of the Fruit of the Spirit, it’s something that attracts me like a siren call, holding out an image of who I could be, and how I ought to behave.
When I’m under pressure or feeling irritable (like recently, when I was organising a birthday party for small children), I keep coming back to passages like this. Despite everything, they have a deep significance to me, and inspire me to be a better person in a way that’s unlike anything else. I recognise the description, and I want to be that person.
Image courtesy of Billy Alexander, used with permission