Reading a Love Letter

June 28, 2013

Martin B. Copenhaver

"Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury.  He had come to worship, and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah."  From Acts 8:26-40

You have to really want to read something to read it in a moving chariot.  After all, roads were rough in those days and shock absorbers had not yet been invented.  But here is this Ethiopian eunuch returning home from a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, reading from the prophet Isaiah while riding in his chariot.  Why was he so engrossed?

Well, the passage he was reading declares God's special love for those who are mistreated and ostracized.  This comes as very good news to the eunuch because he knows something about those conditions.  As a eunuch, he was not even allowed inside the temple because he was considered unclean.  He had been the perpetual outsider, but now he is reading about how God holds him, and others who are rejected, particularly close.

In his classic, How to Read a Book, philosopher Mortimer Adler wrote this:

There is only one situation I can think of in which men and women make an effort to read better than they usually do.  When they are in love and reading a love letter, they read for all they are worth.  They read every word three ways; they read between the lines and in the margins.  They may even take the punctuation into account.  Then, if never before or after, they read.

That is why the eunuch is so engrossed in what he is reading.  It is as if he is reading a love letter addressed to him and to all who have known rejection.  No wonder he is reading for all he is worth.

Prayer

God, next time I read the Bible, inspire me to read for all I am worth, as if reading a love letter, because… well, that's what it is.

About the Author
Martin B. Copenhaver is Senior Pastor of Village Church, United Church of Christ, in Wellesley, Massachusetts. A new edition of his book, Living Faith While Holding Doubts will be published this month by Pilgrim Press.
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