Why Justin Quit Reading the Bible

“I’m wondering why Justin has quit attending Bible study regularly,” said the youth pastor, after he’d settled in at the table with a cup of coffee. Wendy Schermer, Justin’s mother was sitting across from him.

“Attending Bible study has always been voluntary. I know he hasn’t been attending much recently. He doesn’t seem to be that interested in the study any more.”

Copyright © Henry E. Neufeld, 2011. This is a work of fiction. All events and characters are products of my imagination. Any resemblance to real persons, places, or events is purely coincidental.

“How long ago did his attitude change?”

“You should be able to figure that out as easily as I can.”

“But you’re his mother.”

“Yes, but you know when he quit attending Bible study on Sunday nights.”

“True.” The youth pastor paused. “It’s odd that it seems to coincide with a time when our youth group has been really digging in to study the Bible. The young people are giving up other literature and focusing on serious study of God’s Word.”

“Is Justin the only one who has quit attending?”

“No, there are about half a dozen young people who quit about that time. I’m guessing they don’t like the new intensity in our study.”

“You really think that?”

“Well, with many of the young people I think it’s possible. These youth are getting rid of their secular literature and focusing in on the pure Word of God. Some of them don’t want to go there. They don’t want their lives to change that much.”

“But Justin was quite ready to change his life as he studied. I can think of many things he did change over the last year or so. Just ask his younger sister!”

“That’s what I was thinking. The others, maybe. But Justin? So I had to ask.”

Wendy hadn’t been very anxious to talk to the youth pastor. She was pretty sure she was going to change churches, and she didn’t like a big argument. But the youth pastor seemed so sincere. “Do you really want to know? You may not like what I have to say.”

The youth pastor paused a moment, startled. “Yes,” he said finally, “I really want to know.”

“Well, you recall that speaker you had a few weeks back?”

“Yes, I do. In fact, it was as a result of his teaching that we started digging into the Word more seriously.”

“That was the very weekend. I don’t interfere with Justin’s study and reading very much. He’s a better reader than I am. But he told me about that weekend. He mentioned how the speaker warned them against Bibles that weren’t really the Word of God. I don’t remember the names, but I think I recall the Living Bible . . . ”

“More likely the New Living Translation,” put in the youth pastor.

“. . . and something called The Message. There were Bibles they were supposed to use instead. But Justin thought they were less enjoyable to read. He also mentioned some of the secular reading your speaker asked the kids to give up. Justin reads science fiction, fantasy, mysteries, and a good selection of the great literature.”

“Yes, our speaker asked the kids to voluntarily give up that sort of thing and stick with the Bible, Christian books, and those books required for their schoolwork. That kind of books doesn’t help build character and prepare for the kingdom of heaven.”

“Well, I think Justin doesn’t agree.”

“You’re his mother. Do you agree?”

“Yes, I’m his mother, but I’m not ashamed to admit that in many ways he’s smarter than I am. He reads books I can’t really understand. But many of them I can. I don’t particularly care for science fiction, but I don’t see anything wrong with what I’ve read.”

“But that’s the problem. You don’t see anything wrong with it. But what’s right with it? What good does it do?”

“Well, before you suggested he not read that kind of books he was also attending Bible study.”

“It seems to me that it’s a form of addiction. When he was asked to give it up for God, he just quit reading the Bible.”

“Who said he quit reading the Bible?”

“I thought you did.”

“No, I said he quit attending your study. As far as I know he still reads the Bible.”

“Probably using those paraphrases.”

“Well, I wouldn’t know about that. I think he tried your speaker’s suggestions for a week or so, but he told me that they were just badly written, and he didn’t see any benefit in struggling through mangled sentences so he could be closer to some theoretical idea of God’s Word. Those aren’t exactly his words, but they’re close.”

“The danger I see here is that this is rebellion against God.”

“You mean not attending your study is rebellion against God?”

“Not attending Bible study is a symptom.”

“So if he had refused to switch to one of your favored Bible versions, and had refused to burn his science fiction books, you’d still welcome him in Bible study.”

“Of course we’d welcome him. Nobody’s perfect.”

“And you wouldn’t spend all your time pushing him to go along with your reading list?”

“Is that what he told you?”

“No, he didn’t really tell me anything. I just got the impression that much of the time in your study was now spent ‘encouraging’ everyone to burn their secular books and change their choice of Bible versions.”

“We have to encourage the young people in their discipleship,” said the youth pastor.

“I think there you see your problem. If your time is spent telling him to burn books rather than studying the Bible, then I suspect Justin isn’t going to want to attend.”

“But what do you think? Shouldn’t you make the choice here?”

“Well, Justin is 16 years old, and I don’t think I’m going to order him to attend Bible study. But if I was making the choice, I think I’d make the same one.”

“Why? Do you think you’re qualified to make a choice regarding Bible translations?”

“Well, I don’t have a theological education like you do. I’ve never thought I was terribly smart. But I do see what is happening around me. When Justin was 14, he was nothing but trouble. I had to drag him to church. I had to practically sit on him to make him do his homework.”

“Then he started reading the Bible . . .”

“Actually, no. Then he borrowed a science fiction book from a friend. After that he joined the reading club at school, and began to read various other books. Then he decided to get serious about his faith, so he bought a Bible. That was about a year before you arrived at the church. He did some research and made a choice of books to use in studying. He attended Bible study right up until your speaker showed up. He tried your ideas for a couple of weeks, but they didn’t work out.”

“I can understand if he didn’t have the will power to follow through . . .”

Wendy interrupted. “Is that what you think? Justin has plenty of will power. He just thinks you’re wrong, and doesn’t see any reason to spend his time every week arguing with people who think they’re holier than he is.”

“Is that what he told you?” The youth pastor was becoming angry, but he was controlling it carefully. One had to be polite to the parents of the youth, however one might feel.

“No, he didn’t tell me anything. He just quit attending. But I know him, and I know you. I may not be book smart, but I do see things.”

“I don’t want to anger you,” said the youth pastor after a pause. Nonetheless, she could hear the tension and anger in his voice. “But I must tell you that God is going to hold you accountable as Justin’s mother. It’s too bad he doesn’t have a father to keep him straight on these things.”

Wendy stared at the youth pastor for a full minute. He didn’t realize it, but she was getting control of her own temper. “I guess he’ll just have to do with a mother, then. And if I do say so myself, he’s a fine young man. I thank the Lord for him.”

 

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