I have been hearing that statement from bible preachers and teachers for years. It has become a bit cliché these days, which is understandable. After all, when was the last time you looked at an owner’s manual? When cell phones came out, the first few that I purchased came with owner’s manuals and I read through them to understand how this incredible new technology worked. And it helped (for the most part). Nowadays, when I get a new cell phone I just start messing around with it until I can figure out how to transfer my contacts (read: I ask my wife how to do it) and just start making calls or sending texts. I figure I know how to make a cell phone do what I want it to do (for the most part).
I also remember getting my first Apple product: a second generation iPod! It was so cool in it’s sleek box with free headphones and free Apple stickers. And when I opened the owner’s manual I was amazed. No 50 page booklet, full of technical information and safety warnings. Just a simple ‘Quick Start Guide’ that got me up and running in no time at all (actually, thinking back, it did take some time because I had to download iTunes, upload songs, and figure out how to ‘sync’, a concept I didn’t really understand!) And many generations later, they have kept it simple, here is my latest manual:
Point is, we don’t really use owner’s manuals so we don’t really think about their purpose anymore. I mean all they do is tell us how to get started right? The rest is up to us.
Well, sorta. Yes, a good owner’s manual will tell us how to get going, but it will also tell us how to best use and best maintain the product. It is not just a guide to get started but a guide to keep going, a guide to maximize usefulness and productivity. It is not just for the first day, but for the first year, or first ten years (which is probably why Apple does not include much because they want you to buy another product in a few months). This maintanence information is for the long haul, so that the owner can get the best out of the product.
For example, as pictured above, the owner’s manual for my 1999 Sonoma tells me what to do every 3,000 miles, 6,000 miles, even after 150,000 miles (It reads: “Buy a new car already!”) The instructions include things like change the oil, rotate the tires, engine accessory drive belt inspection (uh huh, I need to get right on that), etc. Now why do the manufacturers tell me to do all of this? They want my money (maybe). They want to be rude and pushy (less likely). They want to ruin my life and rob me of all joy (probably not). Perhaps they just want to help me get the best out of my truck. Perhaps they just want it to keep running even when it is, say, 16 years old. Makes sense. They are not trying to trick me or be mean to me, they are just trying to help out a person who might not know all there is to know about a 2.2L L4 engine (I had to look that up). They wrote it for my good.
In this sense, I think calling the Bible the owner’s manual for life can be helpful. Over the past two weeks in our study through 1 Corinthians we have looked at some of Paul’s teaching on sex. The Corinthians were seemingly being influnced by their culture to believe that the body is evil, while the spirit/soul is good (dualism). Some concluded that this meant it was ok for them to visit prostitutes (see 6:12-20) while others concluded that all sexual activity should cease (see 7:1-5). But Paul is writing to tell them that both of these ideas are wrong. They should not be committing sexual immorality and they should not be witholding sex from their spouse.
Now is Paul being mean? Is he being rude and pushy? What about the Lord who inspired this letter? Is He just trying to suck all of the joy out of our lives? Absolutely not! In fact, He is doing just the opposite. He doesn’t give us commands about how to use our bodies sexually because He is a cosmic dictator who is out to squash every ounce of happiness out of our lives once and for all. No, He is the sovereign Lord who created and redeemed us and plans for us to have joy eternal, which begins at least in part when we place our faith in His Son. The Lord gives us instructions about sex for our own good, our own joy. Nobody accuses their car manufacturer of being overly restrictive when they tell us to rotate our tires or change our oil. Yet, sometimes we treat our Creator like He is out to get us with all of His rules and commands when in reality, He only wants the best for us. It is not crazy to believe that the Creator of sex knows best how to teach us about sexual activity in our lives.
Truth is, you can choose to do whatever you want with your body. But make a wise decision. Would you rather listen to the limited knowledge and experience of men or to the eternal wisdom of God? As foolish as I am, I think I better stick with the owner’s manual. It has not failed me yet.