A place for discussion of living out our faith in the context of public service, having a Christlike influence in our offices and on those we serve, and responding to religious persecution at work.
Perspectives: What’s Yours?
January 18, 2010 at 3:56 am #89550
A while ago a friend said that he does very little by email because it’s so easy to misinterpret what is said because of the limitations of writing. I was thinking that I don’t feel that I experience that myself, though I have seen that kind of thinking on several occasions. Then I saw twice within less than an hour today in a couple of exchanges with another friend, I do have a problem with that.
I’m thinking about it so much because I often see also how easy it is to misinterpret things in Scripture, or a least have a different interpretation / understanding than someone else. Two examples from last week’s study of 2 Kings 3-4:
1) In Ch 3, As the armies of Israel, Judah, and Edom wander through the wilderness toward Moab, they want to inquire of the Lord. One of the officers says basically ‘Elisha is over here’ and they go to him.
My interpretation: Elisha, who previously resided in Israel north of Samaria, got so fed up with them that he had left and was now staying south of Judah (which is south of Israel).
The study commentary’s interpretation: Elisha was following the army.
2) In Ch 4, when the Shunnamite woman came and told Elisha that her son had died, he immediately sent Gehazi with his staff to lay on him, with no effect.
My interpretation: sometimes even great men of God can misunderstand what needs to be done or what they sense God is saying.
Another participant’s interpretation: It was a preparatory step for Elisha coming to lay on him and raise him from the dead.
The moral of the story: We need to be aware of our own ‘prejudices’ or perspectives when reading and studying the Word and how they frame our understanding. For instance, I recognize that I have a personal bent, based on 25 years with The Navigators, toward personal discipleship / spiritual reproduction, so I am constantly seeing that in some form or another as I read the Bible.
I believe the same is true in life. In my exchanges with people on the political left (that would be the opposite of where I am), my conclusion has been that both sides tend to see and evaluate people and events in the light of our own history and world view and that can be very hard to change. Liberals are prone based on their world view to see everything about George Bush as negative and evil. Conservatives are prone based on their world view to see everything about Barack Obama as negative and evil. It can be very difficult to step back and take an objective view.
A key is to make sure we have a ‘correct’ world view, for me that means a Biblical world view. This reminds me of a conversation with a friend several years ago as we were preparing to start a Bible study which I was going to lead. I had made it clear that scripture memory would be a part of the class. This friend commented that he wasn’t sure about memorizing scripture, taking a position similar to some notable person who had said that he memorized as little as possible in order to keep his mind free for thinking and analysis.
I pondered this for a bit and responded to him a week later. The problem I saw is that whether we realize it or not, everything our mind takes in goes through some type of ‘truth filter’ … something that tells us that this rings true or it doesn’t. I stressed that we needed to establish our ‘truth filter’ as the Word of God, best accomplished by memorizing it and acknowledging it as the truth.
January 20, 2010 at 11:10 am #89554
Cindy Lou BakerParticipant
Hello Sam. I’m not sure about everything else you said here but I’ve always believed that the Bible was intended to have different meanings for different people. We all surely know that one single verse can have many different meanings at different times in our lives. However, It is absolutely imperative that we try to memorize as many Bible verses, chapters, and books as possible (Some people are better at this than others). If my Bible is somehow taken from me (hopefully from my cold dead fingers), I’m going to at least remember the stuff I think is important. I think somewhere in Titus or TImothy it talks about striving and arguing over things that aren’t as important as the simple truth of the gospel. That all the books and wisdom in the world won’t do us any good down the road. (Uh oh…Is that one of those translations we can all take differently??) God Bless all of you here who are willing and unafraid to share your faith. cb
January 20, 2010 at 3:11 pm #89552
Thanks for your input. Not sure whether we are thinking the same way or not … it may be a matter of terminology. I’m not sure I can buy into ‘the Bible was intended to have different meanings for different people.’ I do believe that individual verses/passages can rightly be applied differently by different people (and wrongly applied also), but that it still has the same meaning. I believe that when God said it, He meant for a specific interpretation. While people do interpret it differently often, I think we far too often assume that my interpretation is correct and don’t dig any further to test the interpretation to see if it is valid.
I did just think of one possible exception that ‘may’ occur fairly often in scripture. I believe that God has a sense of humor and may say and do things ‘just to have some fun with us’ … in a Godly way of course. This may include the use of terms and phrases that can have dual meanings, just as we say things with a ‘pun intended’ context.
My main point in the post anyhow is that we recognize our perspectives and tendencies and the part they play in how we interpret the scriptures and evaluate whether they take us in a direction not intended by God.
You must be logged in to reply to this topic.