My wife Whitney is currently reorganizing several rooms in our home. Most of the changes have been nothing short of brilliant. Bookshelves have been painted. An old computer discarded. A dilapidated desk moved to the garage. A once cluttered office is now a refreshingly spacious room for study.
Only one change has really caused me some angst. Instead of having several rooms with piles of books in them, we now have moved the majority of our books into one room. I like this idea in concept, but it’s stressing me out a little.
The reason for my unease is that I look at the books on these shelves and it feels like they're out of order. Greek tragedies are right next to North American literature. Theological books are right next to Whitney's biology textbooks. What order should our books be in? That's the problem. I don’t know. I’m just pretty sure that the order they’re currently in is not the right one.
Different people express their love for books in different ways. In Ex Libris, a collection of essays by Anne Fadiman, she opines: “just as there is more than one way to love a person, so is there more than one way to love a book.” In her family, they showed their love for books by abusing them for “a book’s words were holy, but the paper, cloth, cardboard, glue, thread and ink that contained them were a mere vessel, and it was no sacrilege to treat them as wantonly as desire and pragmatism dictate. Hard use was a sign not of disrespect but of intimacy.”
Fadiman gives examples of the ways individuals express their appreciation for books that other book lovers might find scandalous. Her brother keeps the books on his bedside table facedown on the page he’s currently reading. Her father would tear off chapters from paperback books he’d completed in order to lighten his load while travelling.
By contrast, her friend “won’t let his wife raise the blinds until sundown, lest the bindings fade. He buys at least two copies of his favorite books, so that only one need be subjected to the stress of having its pages turned.”
With all this in mind, how should love for God’s Word be demonstrated?
Some may buy expensive Bibles with really cool covers. Others show such reverence for the Bible that they refuse to place any other book on top of it. The Jews used to refer to the canonical books as those which “defiled the hands,” presumably meaning that one shouldn’t come into contact with Scripture with unclean hands.
But one of the most important ways to demonstrate a true love for God's Word is obedience. The psalmist declares in Psalm 119, “O how I love Your law” (v. 97). And how is that love manifested? By his obedience and commitment to its contents. He meditates upon it (v. 97), observes it (v. 100), and understands it (v. 104).
It is important to demonstrate respect for God's Word but people are going to do that in different ways. What should be universally true for all of us is that we are reading and obeying His Word.
By His Grace,