When GQ added the Bible to its list of “21 Books You Don’t Have to Read” last week, the internet erupted protesting the magazine’s claim – which is, no doubt, exactly what the writers intended, and media coverage of the list skyrocketed.
In some ways I agree with the assertion. You don’t “have” to read the Bible. Whether you read it or not is a choice. Those of us who are engaged with the Bible can see what a privilege it is to have access to this incredible book. Not only does it provide a glimpse into history, but it is full of wisdom, guidance and stories that lead readers to richer and more meaningful lives.
You have likely skipped down to my bio to see who I am and why I would be advocating for the Bible. Currently, I lead a Bible organization, so what I’m suggesting is probably exactly what you would expect. But would you expect this from a misguided young man, imprisoned in another country on gang and drug-related charges? Well, that was also me. I was 19 years old, and I had just been sentenced to more than five years in prison with four more years pending the resolution of proceedings for federal charges.
One day someone visited my cell and gave me an English Bible. I read it for the first time in that jail. At the time, it was the only thing I had access to in my own language, and it absolutely changed my life.
As I read through the pages of Scripture, hope came alive for me. I read words written by imprisoned men. I saw myself in character after character. I read words of wisdom, realizing that if I had applied them sooner, they would have kept me out of a jail cell. I observed grace, kindness and the value of humanity during a time when I felt so ashamed and unworthy.
Since my release from prison, I have committed most of my life to the cause of Bible translation and distribution. There is simply no way to know where I would be today if I had never received that copy of the Bible.
Unlike any other book, the Bible has a unique way of reaching people where they are. It speaks to every aspect of the human experience, and it resonates powerfully with people from all walks of life.
The very moral fabric of the country was built upon the Bible. Our Founding Fathers – whether or not they believed the Bible was divinely inspired – were living in an age when everyone was familiar with the contents of this amazing book.
The Bible has been studied, dissected, translated and interpreted more than any other book in history, and it will take more than a ranking by GQ to challenge its position in the minds of millions of people who consider it the foundation for their lives.
The Bible remains the best-selling book of all time, and I would venture to guess it will stay atop that list.
The writers at GQ have guided men’s fashion for the last 87 years, but the Bible has been guiding lives for more than 2,000 years.
What GQ has completely missed is that when it comes to matters of faith, conscience and wisdom, the Bible will never go out of style.