For many years, a few of my law partners and I would meet during a lunch break for Bible study. The fellowship and encouragement was special to us all and helped us connect on a level besides our common profession and employer. During one of our sessions over 20 years ago, one of them made an off-hand reference to a discipline he had cultivated since his time as a student at Yale — he reads through the Bible, cover to cover, every year. It was intimidating to hear, but also convicting, and eventually led me to make a personal commitment to read through the entire Bible every other year.
There are 66 books, 1,189 chapters, and 31,102 verses in the Protestant Bible, and over the years, I’ve used a variety of reading plans to read them all. It never ceases to amaze me when scripture verses that I’ve read many times before strike me in new and unexpected ways. This year, I’m using (again) a reading plan devised in the 19th century by a Scottish minister named Robert Murray M’Cheyne. Through his plan, two different Old and New Testament passages are “assigned” for each day.
Good Friday 2017
Although I am committed to this discipline, I’m not obsessed with it and there are some mornings that I miss. Thus, the projected finish date for completion of my reading plan, which is shown in my tablet Bible each day that I open the app, gradually extends. Currently, I’m on pace to finish this go-around by January 27, 2018. While reading day #78 of the plan, coincidentally on Good Friday, April 14, 2017, I was struck by Galatians 5:14, which reads “For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” The simple profundity of this verse hit me, and was the focus of my meditation and prayer that morning.
A couple hours later, I picked up the local newspaper—The Florida Times-Union— from our front step, opened it and began thumbing through the various sections. I don’t always do it, but this time I stopped on the Opinion section and scanned the page. In the upper right hand corner, I saw in bold type “A Verse for Today.” Quoted beneath that was Galatians 5:14. I was initially stunned, and then smiled to myself. While I’m no detective, I don’t need a 2 x 4 upside my head to figure out that Someone was trying to get a message to me, namely that God’s entire law is fulfilled in loving my neighbor as myself.
More Faith Than I’ve Got
I have friends who would dismiss this occurrence as mere serendipity or coincidence. But the confluence of disparate events necessary for this to happen—from my reading through the Bible every other year, to this being an “on” year, to me choosing the M’Cheyne plan again, to having missed several days so I was off-schedule and doing reading #78 on April 14 (which is the 104th day of the year), to being struck by the verse I highlighted in my Bible, to the local paper running a verse of the day feature, to me seeing that feature that day, to the verse being THAT verse (out of 31,102 possible verses)—makes me say, “No way!” You can believe that’s a coincidence if you choose to, but I just don’t have enough faith to believe that.
It’s not yet clear to me why all the effort to get me this message, but I’m taking my next steps with eyes wide open and a heightened sense of awareness. Now I wonder, who is my neighbor?