I have not been, nor will I ever be, a wrestler. One, I’m not strong enough. And two, I just don’t think I’d look good in a singlet. Not even this Popeye one.
Even so, I think wrestling can teach us something about how we do church — and how we read the Bible.
I wonder how many people go to church, any church, and leave, week-after-week, thinking: That was nice. I learned something. I feel better. Now, what’s for lunch?
When I get up to preach each Sunday, I’d love for everyone who listens to wrestle with Scripture with me, because I believe that wrestling with scripture takes it seriously enough not simply to read it, or listen to it — but be drawn into a deeper conversation with it. We may read a passage from the Bible that we don’t understand, or maybe, if we’re honest, we aren’t even sure we agree with it. The truth is: parts of the Bible inspire us; other parts bore us. Some verses challenge us; others may shock us; and some may even horrify us. Some texts in the Bible make you want to get up and go; others may leave you sitting and scratching your head. But when we engage the Bible, all of the Bible, it draws us in. And when it has us in its grasp, it has a way of not letting us go until we are changed.
Perhaps this is why one of my favorite Bible stories is found in Genesis 32, where Jacob wrestles with God. Jacob is not unscathed by the encounter — his hip is dislocated as he grapples with God. But what I love about the story is that Jacob refuses to let go until he receives a blessing from God.
Give me a wrestling match with God any day, versus a polite sermon where I nod at God, and maybe nod off, as well. If the Bible, or a sermon, or even church itself are going to do their work in my heart, they will help me wrestle with God, myself, and life. And as that happens, I often will find myself changed.
So, if you “go to church” this Sunday (and I hope you will), don’t just go and listen. Go ready to wrestle. For I believe that in the wrestling, the engaging — in the struggle itself — we encounter God. Just leave the singlet at home; unless, of course, you come wearing this one.