What Do You Mean By “Biblical Living”?

I get this question a lot. Or, more accurately, I get told that I don’t come across as someone who is “super religious,” or a “fundamentalist,” or “very Biblical.” It’s an interesting phenomenon to me, because it makes me wonder what other people mean by any of these labels. What does “Biblical living” look like to them?

Before I even settled on going back into practice as a massage therapist and health coach, I knew that my life was aligning to a change of course. I knew that when I moved to South Carolina, this was my Promised Land. This is where I was meant to go, this is where G-d needed me (as my aunt and I had prayed so many nights over the last year), this is my chapter under the namesake of Joshua–and all the signs were pointing to it. Literally.

So, when I decided to open a new practice, I knew that “Biblical living” was a vital part of it. There’s a lot I need a break from in more universalist and open-ended approaches to holistic and spiritual health, and that’s a much longer story for another day, but for the sake of this post, I knew that part of the call I am answering here is to be a real oasis of spiritual healing. I’m here to help people make the connections between what happened in the Bible and what is happening in their lives, and between the world that G-d created and the natural ways of living that can bring us closer to it, nourish us, and even heal us. I’m here to tend the fires of ancestral Abrahamic traditions, and to keep alive those natural ways of Biblical living at risk of being eclipsed by more secular and reductive understandings of religion, health, and science.

As best I can tell, for a lot of other people, “Biblical living” has come to mean something like judging and condemning everyone else, hating other people, and forcing others to live according to some set of laws which the Bible is then reduced to enumerating without any other relevant information at all.

Yikes.

I want to ask where this idea came from, but I don’t need to. I’ve been to that church before. I’ve drawn the same conclusions about the Bible and everyone who values it. And it took me long years of wrestling with this stuff to ever be open again to thinking any differently about it. Somewhere along the way of getting caught up in the ecstasy of reconnecting to G-d and to what the Bible actually teaches, I got so far from the trenches there that it caught me off-guard to hear my old state of mind repeated back to me again.

Ironically enough, that reversal feels a bit Biblical to me. I think G-d is like that sometimes, allowing circumstances to echo so that we have an opportunity to revisit them, to try again. Remember, in the original Hebrew, “sin” meant “missing the mark.” So think of yourself as someone learning archery. In the beginning you will surely miss the mark. Out of faith that we can get better and get closer to what G-d intends for us to realize, we try again.

I read the Bible the same way. Regardless of which books are in yours, where it ends, who is the most important person or people in it, or even what language it’s in, each of us is looking at a set of stories about some people who are truly flawed individuals striving (in most cases) to live more in alignment with their Creator.

The biggest names we remember–Jacob, Joseph, and Moses, for instance–all contradict expectations and even challenge us to wrestle with what we understand to be “the law.” Jonah, the exception I was thinking of earlier, is another walking contradiction–the missionary with no desire to go on missions. Jacob cheated his brother and lied to his father. Joseph’s famed “coat of many colors” was more likely something akin to a princess dress (if you look at the original Hebrew there), which puts a completely different spin on that story. And Moses was of course a stuttering mess of self-doubt.

Those are the kinds of people the Bible records as central to its overall message. Those are the people G-d entrusts with fathering, nourishing, and liberating His chosen people.

Why?  Because those are the people whose lives are testimony to G-d’s design. We are not meant to end the story at judging ourselves, or picking ourselves and each other apart obsessively to find fault. That is never the end of G-d’s story.

We’re meant to find what we perceive to be our flaws in the pages of the Bible. We’re meant to find people who feel just as  imperfect and unworthy as we do. And we’re meant to understand that G-d’s love for us is vast and limitless. There is no separation and no distance created for any other purpose than for G-d to fill it with love. There is no misdeed or quality to us with the power to severe us from our Creator. In the Bible, we are shown the ungrateful Israelites worshipping an idol they craft for themselves mere pages after being liberated from slavery in Egypt. We are shown egomaniacal and ignorant men building a name for themselves in the Tower of Babel mere pages after Noah is protected from the flood by an ark measured to the holiest of names. We are shown doubt, non-conformity, despair, contradiction, and exception.

With testimonies like this, what could any of us possibly do that separates us from G-d or leaves us unworthy of total enrapture in the lovingkindness of our Creator?

This is the basis of what I mean when I say that my practice and my life are built on “Biblical living.” I mean that I am starting from a place of seeing the goodness, the possibility of sanctification and reconciliation, the yetzer ha-tov (good inclination) in all people, all walks of life, all.

Biblical living to me means getting free of the judgment and the condemnation, and looking instead for mercy and grace. It means freeing ourselves from the simple answer–in this verse in this book it says this specific thing is wrong and the punishment is death. It means reading the Bible as a whole and understanding the values it teaches through all of the examples it provides that contradict and exempt themselves from that simple reading.

Biblical living means getting back to the Garden, to perceiving ourselves not as an anxiety-ridden, flawed, and undeserving creature, but as someone who is beautiful in the eyes of G-d, created with intention, created out of love, and created to receive love sometimes from places that feel so terribly far away. Biblical living means shining that light on each other.

The truth is that there is no quality and no deed that cuts us off. There is no part of us which is severed from this great garden of creation. When I say that I live by the Bible, this is the view of life that I strive to put to practice. Each of us is planted here, intentionally. Each of us will grow in sometimes wild and unexpected ways. And in all ways, our Creator’s nurturance is being revealed.

About the author

Free to Live Healthy is written by JP Mosley, a board certified health and wellness coach based in Abbeville, South Carolina.

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