Learning to read and study the Bible was an important step in my spiritual formation. My grandmother would tell me to memorize verses of scripture to serve as encouragement and guidance. She would say “you should always have the Word of God in your heart even when can’t have a Bible in your hand.”
I can remember some of the lessons I was taught about how to read and study the Bible: find a quiet time and place, take notes, (we didn’t dare write in the Bible), pray, read, reflect, and to respond to the question, “How can I apply this biblical narrative to my life?” I also learned about the potential danger of using a scripture to justify or promote my point of view.
I am aware of the context in which Romans 13 was written and I am also keenly aware of what crosses my mind when I read the words in verse 1-7 “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God…” This text has been used in support of slavery and of unjust immigration policies resulting in children and parents being separated. When I must read Romans 13, I hasten to get to end the of the chapter to be reminded of what I believe to be true, even in our present context.
In the book, Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People, by Mahzarin R. Banaji and Anthony G. Greenwald, the authors discuss a broad range of biases all of us have hidden in our brains. These hidden biases can show up to influence our relationships with people based on our exposure to cultural attitudes about age, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, social class, sexuality, disability status, and nationality and more.
Today, I am acknowledging my religious bias, my blind spot, my personal preference for one interpretation of a text over another, based on my lived experiences as a Christian. The concluding verses of Romans 13:8-10 focus on the single most important commandment.
8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.
9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
The more I study the Word of God, the more I realize I have major blind spots, the more I thank God for His love, mercy, and grace.
Dear God, thank you for loving me in spite of my failures. Help me to recognize and address my biases, as I strive to honor Your clear and concise commandment to love my neighbors.