Author: Ron Graham
Just Play Ball
—How to understand the Bible
Some people have difficulty understanding the Bible. In most cases, there is a simple reason and a simple solution. That’s what this lesson is about.
This problem may be likened to another which we can probably all relate to. Some boys and girls can’t play ball. When you throw them a ball, they can’t catch it or hit it with a bat. When they throw the ball, it doesn’t go anywhere near the target. When they try to kick a ball, they fall over.
These appear to be normal children, but when it comes to ball games they embarrass themselves. We feel sorry for such children. How may we help them? For most such children there is a simple answer. Believe it or not, the same answer will work for most people who cannot understand the Bible.
1 Don’t Call a Brain Specialist
When some people see a child fumbling with a ball, they immediately think the worst. Perhaps the child’s co-ordination problem indicates a malfunction in the child’s brain.
Such people would think the child should be in front of a brain specialist without delay. Or maybe the brain is retarded because the child did not crawl much as an infant. Better get the child to a therapist for special remedial exercises. That, however, is by no means the first thing a sensible person would do to help a child who can’t play ball.
The first thing a sensible person would do is simply play with the child. Just play ball quietly, exposing the child to the actions of throwing, kicking, batting, catching, and bouncing the ball.
You would play with the child often, and after a few weeks of such experience the child probably would be able to play ball happily instead of with embarrassment. There was nothing wrong with the child’s brain. The child had simply not played enough ball.
"Having their senses exercised"
Likewise, when we encounter people who do not understand the Scriptures, we should not assume that they lack the brains or there is something wrong with their intelligence. Rather we should assume that they just need "their senses exercised to discern good and evil" (Hebrews 5:14), especially the "good and evil" that we call truth and error.
When Peter spoke of some of Paul’s writings being "hard to understand" (2Peter 3:15-18), and observed that some "twist and distort" those scriptures, he did not blame Paul.
Rather, Peter blamed the fact that the twisters were "unlearned and unstable". They hadn't had the exercise and practice, so they couldn't throw the ball straight.
2 Don’t Get Technical
There's one thing you don't do when trying to teach a child to play ball. You don't get technical and start telling the child about spin and trajectory and aerodynamic forces. You might give a few simple tips about holding the ball, extending the arm, what to look at. But you don't get technical.
"Ignorant questions... endless genealogies"
So many people get so technical with the Bible, that they don't know any longer where they are going with it, and nobody else knows what they are talking about. Paul warns about "ignorant questions" (1Timothy 6:4,20, 2Timothy 2:16,23) and "endless genealogies" (Titus 3:9).
When things start getting bogged down in technicalities and complications, you know that, even though the people involved seem to be experts, they are talking through their hats. You need to go back to the basic ball game. That's what you'd do in helping a child learn to play ball.
3 Solution: Experience, Experience, and Experience
The more hands on experience a child gets with a ball, the better the child learns to handle it. It's no different with the Bible. Nothing beats personal use of the Bible to gain a knowledge and understanding of it. Instruction is helpful, but actual experience is essential.
To put it very simply, the best way to understand the Bible is to use it every day. Just like the best way to get skilled with a ball is to use it every day.
"Get absorbed... Be diligent..."
Paul tells Timothy to "Take pains with these things, be absorbed in them... Be diligent... " (1Timothy 4:15 NASB, 2Timothy 2:15).
A child who tries to play ball and keeps on practicing will get good at playing ball. If there is no interest and effort, the child will remain unskilled in handling a ball. If you or those you teach are not really trying to think, and are not showing an interest, and are not spending much time with their Bibles, then is it any wonder they don't understand the Bible?
There are three things that help people gain skill and understanding. These three things are: (1) experience, (2) experience, and (3) more experience.