The Unexpected Bible Scholar

OpenBible John 1Chronically, she was in her mid 30’s — just a few months younger than I was at the time. Her moderate intellectual disability, however, left her unable to read beyond a 7th grade level and unable to carry on a conversation that didn’t relate directly to her immediate circumstances.

She attended our Bible Study group primarily because she could walk to it from her home. Since everyone else had Bachelors or Masters Degrees, she never participated in the actual discussions, though she always had prayer requests and sometimes asked if we could sing “What A Friend We Have In Jesus.”

Did I say she never participated in the discussions? Typically, she didn’t. After all, we tended to get quite cerebral at times, pretty much excluding her by default (though not maliciously or deliberately).

But one night we hit a verse in Mark’s gospel that, for all our collective brain power, none of us could figure out. We must have spent a good ten minutes flipping to cross-references and asking the teacher what the commentaries said. He replied that none of them shed much light on the verse, leaving us puzzled and  frustrated.

Then she spoke, her voice betraying her surprise at our inability to understand the very obvious meaning of the verse. Using just one simple sentence and her limited vocabulary, she explained the verse with an accuracy that left us speechless. We followed her uncomplicated reasoning, amazed that she was right! Merely by relating the verse to its immediate context, she resolved the mystery.

Proud of our college educations, we’d cluttered our study of God’s Word with fleshy attempts to interpret it, whereas that simple lady read it at face value and rightly understood the Holy Spirit’s intent.

The law of the Lord is perfect,
    reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
    making wise the simple; ~~Psalm 19:7 (ESV)

I share my favorite memory of this sister in Christ to demonstrate that, for those willing to believe the Word of God for what it plainly says, interpreting Scripture needn’t be arduous. The Lord gave us His Word in order to reveal Himself, not to play hide-and-seek or to increase our intellectual pride.

Sadly, we delude ourselves into thinking that the Bible is difficult to understand. And, while diligent Bible study definitely enhances our understanding of God’s Word by drawing out its richness, we need to acknowledge its clarity and simplicity. Even children and people with cognitive disabilities can comprehend it.

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