Yesterday I read the devotions in one of my guides, “The Word in Season” from Augsburg Fortress Press. I liked this phrase, “theology is friendship,” used by one devotion writer. He discussed how he had trouble pronouncing the long names in the Bible, in this case New Testament names of Greek origin. But he married a Greek woman, became friends with persons with similar names, and he had a new appreciation of the way Paul greeted church members (often by name) at the end of his letters. Theology is friendship because it’s shared with other people.
I appreciated that phrase. Sometimes, when we read the Bible, it can be difficult to feel connected to that world and those words. The text is a long-ago set of documents that we’ve honored as God’s Word, further distancing us from the sense of friendship that some of the writers felt toward their original readers.
But friendship really is what Paul (exasperating as he sometimes seems to us and must’ve been in person, too) felt toward the people to whom he wrote. In fact, he said often enough that he needed their love! It might be an interesting exercise in visualizing the biblical text. (Our pastor has been experimenting with helping us visualize and experience the text in personal ways.) Think of the text as something written with feelings of friendship and affection for those who read it---including you and me.