The book Meeting Miss Irby (Irby, 2012), describes how Adeline Paulina Irby went into Bosnia as a tourist, fell in love with the people, and her heart never left. Miss Adeline Paulina Irby is a 19th century example of the way God leads Christians in all eras to accept huge personal risk and discomfort in order to follow Christ and be like him. Born to a life of privilege and luxury, she chose instead to live among impoverished and oppressed people, riding in unsprung ox carts rather than opulent carriages, enduring harsh winters and plain food rather that moving among society’s elite from dinner parties to evenings at the opera. Her work in Bosnia endeared her to generations, because she truly did not care about anyone’s “qualifications” for benefits. Adeline Irby saw all humanity through the same lens – the lens of God’s love which she learned from the Bible.
Today people who claim to be busy about social justice rarely live up to the standard Miss Irby found in the Bible. Today’s humanitarians hand out food and clothing, but unlike Miss Irby, they are often afraid to give out a Bible or name the name of Christ. Miss Irby felt called and motivated by the model of Christ in the Bible. She lived according to his teaching and served in his name. Underlying all her humanitarian aid (food, clothing and shelter, schools, and a teacher training program) lay her understanding that the Bible was the all-sufficient guide for her faith and life.
Miss Irby demonstrated her perception that the Bible pre-empted all other sources of guidance for life when a man came to her school to request a rifle. “Why do you need a rifle?” she asked. The man replied, “to join the uprising.” Bosnia in the 19th century endured the same constant violence and the incessant political turmoil it has endured for hundreds of years. There had been many uprisings, which littered the history of Bosnia with blood and grief. Miss Irby left the room and soon returned with a book in her hand. “Take this book,” she said. “There are all sorts of weapons in it. … you can defeat all your enemies easily with this book without shedding a single drop of blood.” (Irby, 2012) Miss Irby unabashedly shared the book that had guided her and protected her, even when she and her traveling companion were arrested as spies.
Some contemporary Christians allege that humans have learned so much about the world that the Bible simply can’t catch up. Humans, according to them, now know things the Bible never thought to discuss with us – DNA, rocket science, and gender orientation. This concept, that humanity is evolving and becoming better and wiser in every generation, is a secular teaching. Secular thinkers believe that every old idea, for example, the idea that human sexuality is rightly fulfilled in the marriage of a man and a woman, must be re-examined by humans in every generation. If that idea makes humans unhappy, then it must not be true, and it can be discarded. Some Christians believe the same thing. They reject the Bible’s revealed truth as outdated and inadequate for contemporary guidance. They believe that God, for some reason, has left humankind on its own to figure things out for the duration of time and space. The timeless, unalterable and absolute truth of the Bible is inconvenient to their happiness, and they disregard it.
The consequence of abandoning the Bible as the guide for faith and life has destroyed both church congregations and individuals. This is bad. A worse consequence is the confusion of people who see some Christians advocating the same social agenda as political leaders while other Christians reject that agenda for being in opposition to God’s revelation in the Bible. There is a reason Jesus compared his teaching to a foundation in solid rock; his teaching does not change with the times. Miss Irby was right to tell her visitor to use the Bible as his weapon in the battles of life, because it has demonstrated its adequacy for two thousand years. Contemporary Christians should study the lives of people like Miss Irby to learn how the Bible is more than sufficient for guidance in faith and life in all eras.
Irby, J. (2012). Meeting Miss Irby. Samizdat Creative.