I read an article recently that reminded me of something I hadn’t heard or thought of for a long time—the life verse. For those who are unfamiliar with that term, it’s a reference to a practice that many Christians followed in years gone by. The idea behind it was to latch onto a Scriptural passage that jumped out at you—one upon which you would base your life (sensing, of course, that this was the Lord’s will for you).
Typically, these would often be verses that are referred to as the “promises of God.” They would be passages such as Romans 8:37 which states, “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Another example of a typical life verse would be Philippians 4:19—“My God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”
Uplifting, Inspiring, and Superficial
It’s certainly no wonder that folks would choose verses such as these. They are positive, uplifting, and inspiring. The life verse was meant to shape your being in such a way as to guide you in the right direction along the pathway of your long pilgrimage. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that, but many folks would opt for a passage and never understand its context or full meaning. In other words, it was often quite superficial.
Upon hearing many of these life verses, it dawned on me that a lot of the Bible was being ignored. For example, I never heard anyone say their life verse was Hebrews 10:31 which avers, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Try living that one out for the rest of your life.
The guy who wrote the article revealed the fact that he grew up as a pastor’s kid (that would be a PK to all you insiders). He admitted that, during his childhood, he was something of a “smart aleck.” He decided to be a bit rebellious and sarcastic by choosing the verse from John 11:35 which simply says, “Jesus wept.” I’m sure his parents were a bit put off by his choice, but they probably loved him in spite of it.
The Private Life of Jesus
Interestingly enough, he went on in his article to explain that, in his later years, the verse actually became a comfort for him. If you look at it in context, you can see why. As it stood alone, it was a ridiculous choice for a so-called life verse. In its context, however, it shows a deep glimpse into the private life of Jesus—one seldom seen in the Gospels.
Jesus was standing at the graveside of his good friend, Lazarus. Even though he was about to raise him from the dead, his love for his friend moved him to tears. His onetime companion was lying in a tomb, stone cold dead. As he once stated, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” I guess it was a pretty good life verse after all.
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]