04 October 2006

It's all about context

Taking verses out of context. Bad habit.
Pet peeve: memorizing a verse out of Job only to find out it was from one of Job’s “comforting” friends. God chided them. Said they were wrong. Yet here we are, committing their words to memory as a testimony to the character of God. Sometimes using their very words to comfort hurting friends. Not so good, if you ask me.
What about the “God’s word will not return void”? That verse is from Isaiah where God is prophesying destruction. His word, or His promise as to the fulfillment of this destruction, will be accomplished. Is this what we really want? Yup. His word will not return void. Mayhem. Destruction. Can’t wait. Sometimes I think we use it as an excuse. Well, I quoted the verse. My job in evangelism is done. God’s word will not return void. Not up to me anymore. Don’t have to worry about being loving or sensitive to that person’s situation or culture. God’s word will not return void. I just have to say it exactly how I see fit.
Or the "where two or more are gathered" section? That’s in the middle of church discipline. When carrying out church discipline, the people of God represent God. It’s risky business, this church discipline, so God wants a gathering of His people. I think sometimes we use this verse to mean this feel good, yeah, man, snaps all around in beatnik fashion, we’re in church. And we forget the verse when we want to correct someone in their ways. It’s up to me. They need help. Good thing I’m here to save their day.
And Jeremiah: I know the plans I have for you, to prosper you, etc., etc., etc. Insert name here. God wants to prosper me. God knew the plans he had for Jeremiah, like to leave him at the bottom of a cistern or run naked through the street. Personally, I’m not really into the whole cistern thing. But, I know the plans I have for Heather, to prosper her with a publisher and astronomical book sales. Now that, I like.
But to be honest, my theology covers most of this. Like the two or more or gathered. Side note: I do think we need to take more seriously “correcting others,” as in with much prayer and the wisdom of gathered people, not something to be done lightly. Back to point: I also think that the church is the people of God. Where God’s people are gathered, there His presence is. Of course, I also happen to believe that God is omniscient and His presence happens to be everywhere, whether we’re there or not.
And the Jeremiah thing. I believe in God’s sovereignty (those He predestined, He called). I believe that for those who love God, he works everything to good. As C.S. Lewis said, we’re a little afraid of how painful that process will be. The good may not look how I want it to look.
And then there’s the whole free will question and the intricacies of these two ideas working together, free will and God’s sovereignty. How does that effect God's plan for me and my responsibility?
Don’t even get me started on praying to be “in the center of God’s will.” So being in God’s will is different than being in the center of God’s will? How much more stress can you add to my Christian walk? Is it okay for me to serve God here or there? Do I have to pinpoint everything? Or just love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, and mind, and love my neighbor as myself no matter where I am or what I'm doing? But that’s a different rant for a different day.
A lot of mixed up ideas. All from a pet peeve.

12 comments:

Jennifer said...

Not too mixed up. Well, okay right at the end maybe. But what an awesome look at those oft quoted verses.

Erin said...

Ok, hitting nerves left and right there, Girl!

I would actually REALLY like to see/hear/read more of this from you because my kids and I are studying "responsibility" this semester and I totally want to bring up the issue of a Christian's responsibility to handle the Word of God correctly.
So... rant away! (I will be taking notes.)

Pamela said...

We have a home group, and are trying to understand the concept of 'when two or more are gathered.'

As for the naked Jeremiah, I need to get my Bible out and be reminded of the cistern story. The object lesson has totally skipped my mind......

You were going 75mph in a 35mph zone... hee hee

michael snyder said...

Preach it, girl! Amen!

Michelle Pendergrass said...

I have those pet peeves as well. Add to it one of my biggest is when someone prays something like, "Lord, IF this one is yours, IF so and so knows you..."

I just cringe when I hear someone doubting/trying to judge where someone else is.

L.L. Barkat said...

This often bothers me too...

yet...

... what I find so interesting about scripture is the way it can be used alternately. Paul did a lot of that... took things that weren't meant-that-way and put a new twist on them. This is part of rabbinical tradition too (oh, you'd probably enjoy The Burning Word, where Kunst discusses how the rabbis "turn and turn again" the word, in a kind of holy play.)

I think what's important is to know both sides...

just some humble thoughts on the matter.

Victor said...

Good rant.

A great book on God's will (which basically says there is no such thing as an "individual will" for each person) is Decision Making and the Will of God by Garry Freisen. Its subtitle is - and this is so great - A Biblical alternative to the traditional view. Haha!

Heather said...

Thanks, guys, for giving me leeway and grace in this.
I want to clarify that I believe the Bible to have meaning in our lives. I think you guys gave me that assumption.
The problem is when we automatically apply to our world rather than first looking at the story, how the story fits with the stories around it, what it meant to its original readership, and from that, in community, develop a concept of theology and meaning in our lives.
I believe we can relate to these characters in the Bible, these disgusting, dirty characters that God uses. The occassional displays of bravery.
Pam, I think a home group is biblical. Heck, the original church met in catacombs. Not my cup of tea, but born of necessity. I love the intimacy of the home group. And we have clues throughout the NT of how they did church. They had exhortations. They discipled. They sang. They prayed. Man, did they pray. They had leaders. They had people with different gifts each contributing accordingly.
Barkat, I agree with your point about Paul, but, since I believe the Bible to be inspired, I believe he was inspired by the Holy Spirit, so I want to be careful to mimic his ways. And yes, I know about the hebrew midrash, of the people trying to figure out what the stories meant to them throughout time, which I think is important. It also led to Pharisee legalism. Not that all of it was bad. I think overall, it was important for the Hebrews to figure out life. Just like we have both commentaries and millions of pastors and spirituality books and our coffee discussions figuring out what this means for us today.

Heather said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jennifer Tiszai said...

Wow, feel like I came late to the party. You made some excellent points, Heather, hitting exactly on a lot of my pet peeves. And why I tend to either have to keep my mouth shut or cause trouble. I knew I liked you! :)

L.L. Barkat said...

A thought on the midrash thing... isn't it funny how play can become work can become law? I'm thinking there's a caution in there somewhere. :)

Inihtar said...

I think we often jump too soon to the end of the story, skipping over the beginning and middle. When God said "I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you," it means that the prosperity could -- and usually does -- come only after some pretty rough plans. So when the road to prosperity starts to get rocky, we question His promises.