General Douglas MacArthur is one of the most decorated and successful men in the history of the U.S. military. He served our country for over 60 years, was a five-star general, received the Medal of Honor, was one of only five men to ever rise to the rank General of the Army in the U.S., and was the only man to ever become a field marshal in the Philippine Army. In terms of success, General MacArthur reached near legendary status.
However, during his training at West Point, an interesting situation occurred. One of his classes had been focused on the study of the time-space relationship that was formulated by Einstein. The text was extremely complex, and MacArthur wasn’t able to understand it. So, he just memorized it. When he was called upon to recite sections and answer questions, he reeled off almost word for word what the book said. Stunned, his instructor, Colonel Fieberger, looked at him as asked, “Do you understand this theory?” In a moment of embarrassing honestly, MacArthur replied, “No, sir.” There was tense silence in the room until the Colonel finally said, “Neither do I, Mr. MacAurthur. Section dismissed” (Gen. Douglass MacArthur, Reminiscences).
It’s not uncommon for people to try to fake their way through something, especially when it’s challenging to understand. There are stories told of men who have memorized entire Bible chapters, books, and even Testaments, and yet who profess to be atheists. While they might know the words, it does no good without understanding.
However, before we pass the blame off too quickly, there are plenty of Christians who aren’t so different. We might quote passages we’ve memorized since 1st grade without really knowing what it means. We might spout out Scriptures to defend a position without having adequate understanding. We might fly to a single verse to prove a point without understanding the context. And worst of all, we might talk about Scripture without understanding what that Scripture is saying to us personally.
James 1:22-25 said it this way, “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.”
It’s one thing to know the words of Scripture, it’s another to understand it and make it personal. Let’s be people who don’t just hear and memorize. Let’s not be people who can just spout Bible facts. Instead, let’s be people who look into the Scriptural mirror, God’s word, and seek to correct what flaws it shows within us. This is hearing and doing. This is listening to God’s Word and then understand what that means for us personally. We will be far better equipped to talk with others about Scripture when it has become personal for ourselves first.