I AM BACK. HERE IS WHY.

After somewhat of a hiatus, I have decided to return to writing. This time, I am doing it for me, which is a refreshing change from previous attempts to challenge what I deemed harmful ideas and push things towards change. What I found was that all my best intentions were not well received, in fact, they often led to “concerned” texts and phone calls. It was exhausting. 

I continued to write in the face of controversy and unease. However, over time, I started looking at different blogs and websites in efforts to be a “more effective” writer. This research brought me to another and most concerning realization: social media is dangerous. I read blog after blog post that spewed hate and aggression (downright ugly at times). I saw a cycle. One person slamming another, then the other fires back, and a full on social media war commences. People choose their sides, things get sticky. Then there is the unfollowing and disowning. As I watched this happen over and over again, my heart sank. My hopes for the Church and pictures of unity were replaced by sadness. This was the beginning of the darkest season in my life.

The truth is: I gave up.

While I am telling the truth, I owe you an apology. I got discouraged. I made the decision that the best thing I could do to help the social media world was to be silent. I turned off my blog and quit writing. This was my way of not adding to the deafening noise of division. I bought into the lies that wanted to silence my voice. I figured, what good, if any, was another blog?

That is when an idea hit me; WHAT IF I CHOSE TO BE POSITIVE?

What if I countered all of the negativity with honest, optimistic writings? Once I began considering what could be, anxieties started to subside. I am still meandering through the darkness, but I can see light again. What was once hopelessness is turning to hopefulness. My season of darkness is not over, but I am learning to harness my doubts in a much healthier manner. For me, doubt is an essential part of faith. Believing is not seeing, and doubt keeps me honest.

I do not claim to have a faith that is unshakable, what I have is a faith that bends and is always in the process of being shaped, molded, and most importantly, questioned. That is why I started writing in the first place. I lost sight of that. In a culture of competition for clicks, I felt pressure to conform, to sell out to the patterns and norms for more traffic on my page.

I know better, now, because my voice matters.

Truly yours,

Shea

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God Our Mother

I am becoming increasingly aware of the limitations of language when we talk about God. It has many forms, but usually sounds something like this: “Dear Heavenly Father.” I’ve often used this phrase to talk to and about God. It’s not wrong, per se, but I recognize the limiting and biased nature of it. This is the language that I have inherited through repetition and tradition. But how would others look at me if I prayed, “Dear Heavenly Mother?”

How I talk about God affects what I think about the divine and the world. There is a correlation between my perspective and my language—each serves and supports the other. By calling God “Father,” I am saying that God is like a man, including the physical and emotional properties that coincide with this image. Am I unknowingly hindering my understanding of all that God is by gendering and humanizing the nature of God?

I recently finished my second and final Hebrew class. As we studied the Hebrew Bible, I realized two things:

  • There is no gender-neutral noun in the Hebrew language. In other words, language forces the reader/translator to refer to God as masculine or feminine (in a human sense).
  • The Hebrew Bible was written in a patriarchal society so, naturally, they chose to portray God as male. This is not an attractive part of biblical history, but the ugly truth is that women were second-rate citizens in the culture of that day. An androcentric society wrote an androcentric book? Makes sense.

Thoughts matter. Language matters. Perspective matters. They are the tools by which I construct reality. If God is a man, then “he” will take on the characteristics and actions of a man. This is essentially what the Hebrew Bible suggests. God reveals “himself” to Abraham, which is the beginning of a patriarchal order. The God of fathers (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) becomes the Father God, solidifying the association as a significant part of the biblical narrative that even now shapes our human understanding of God.

But Genesis 1:27 raises questions about the man-shaped box I have stuffed God into. The text describes God making humanity: “in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” God created them in the image and likeness of God. Therefore, God’s image and likeness are completely expressed in both male and female; God’s gender is technically male and female.

Understanding the importance of language, I am looking for new ways to talk about God—away from the use of gender-specific terms and faith claims. I am becoming more aware of the consequences of my words. I grew up thinking God was an old, white man with a long, white beard. I thought that God was only a father. My entire faith was built on this viewpoint. Now, I am wrestling with the consequences of that narrow perspective.

As I seek new ways to describe God, I find more meaningful, inclusive language that breaks the chains of stale language and stereotypes. Instead of saying, “him” or “himself,” I can easily say “God” or “God’s self.” I can also use terms that describe who and what God is, such as Creator, Holy One, All-Powerful, and Lord.

Changing the way I talk about God isn’t easy, but I hope it will deepen the wells of my spiritual journey. When I associate God with only male language, I focus on male-oriented action and neglect the feminine qualities of the Divine Presence: giving birth to creation, nurturing, the calm soothing that only a mother can bring. The Father gives daily bread; the Mother gives us life to begin with. At best, God as “he” is incomplete.

Some Christians might think it is ridiculous, but I find it necessary to refine my language and understanding of God beyond traditional gender-specific roles. In the end, God is not human and cannot be limited to human terms. Why would I continue to use language that not only sells short who God could be, but limits the ways I can experience the divine? Why would I continue to use language that conforms to the traditional patriarchal framework?

As I pray, I seek new ways to talk to and about God. I remain quiet, still, and creatively ready to think deeply upon the Divine Presence and, then, to speak meaningfully—to transcend the language of human anatomy to a place of wonder and possibility. In doing so, I hope to find something new, exciting, refreshing, and real.

 

 

Michael Gungor & The Problem With Orthodoxy

Don’t call the orthodox police, but we need to address this!

Lately, with every new post, blog, interview, tweet, and Facebook status, I become a little more afraid to say what I am really learning. This tension fills the places that you cannot see with the naked eye. In my bed, in the dark, alone in the car, at the gym, everywhere, I am struggling here.

My thoughts are far from orthodoxy. Yeah, I said it.

The problem with orthodoxy is that the very word means “right thinking/belief.” The term automatically assumes the right position, which makes another position “wrong.” In history, does a strong desire to be “right” ever end well? This hangover from Modernity oversimplifies certain issues, overcomplicating others in the process. In the words of the great Alanis Morisette, “Isn’t it ironic? Don’t you think?”

Now, let’s get to Michael Gungor.

Evangelicals are firing away at Michael for what?… oh, for saying EXACTLY WHAT THE GOSPEL OF JOHN SAYS ABOUT JESUS! In fundamentalism, the problem with asking questions is that it is assumed that you are challenging the “truth.” In some ways, maybe there is a bit of challenge; but as I wrote about in my last post, faith is not certainty. Faith is uncomfortable and comes with tension. Where there is no tension; there is no faith.

Michael’s blog points to one idea that we must address: the Bible, The Apostle’s Creed, formation of the Church, and all our thoughts about God are ALL HUMAN PRODUCTS. Is God involved? Absolutely. But how can you hold any of those things as equal to God? All things have one common thread: tradition. Over time, these things have been accepted as something that they were never meant to be. How can we make the Bible something that it never was supposed to be? And how can Scripture mean something that it never has?

Jesus is the Word. Read John. The Bible is a collection of stories where the Divine meets humanity. It gives us faith that there is something out there after all. It does not give us 3 ways to make everything perfect; instead, it challenges us to see ourselves in the story. The main character, Jesus changed it all. He flipped the social world upside down, announcing ludicrous economic policies and justice for all the poor. It is all there; read it.

So before we judge Michael, take a moment and reflect. Was it really what he said that bothered people or is it that we react harshly when we feel threatened? This is because we are told we have to be “orthodox.” Everyone wants to be “right,” which is a dangerous label and impossible conclusion. Our only hope is to look to Jesus. Which is EXACTLY what Michael was saying…

I am sure there are things that require faith in your life. Nothing is really as certain as we act like. Don’t believe me? Ask someone, “how are you?” More often than not, they will reply, “I’m good.” But they’re not. And we’re not either.

Nobody has it all figured out. If we did, we would not need faith.

The Diary of A Skeptic Soul

Some days I am a skeptic.

Faith is not the absence of tension; no, faith is the guarantee of it. Amidst this tension is a constant teetering between faith and doubt. Some days, doubt wins; some days, faith prevails. Someday, I hope to move beyond the compartments in my mind that keep everything divided. This division is a reminder that I am at odds with myself.

There are three things that keep me in a place of constant deliberation: faith, doubt, and hope. They are always moving in and out of my mind, warring against each other for control.

Faith. Things we see, things we cannot see. Moments of great clarity followed by moments of greater confusion. Days of undeniable joy followed by weeks of unrest. Seasons come and go; life may just pass me by if I do not take control. So I clinch my fists. But what happens when a faith-walk becomes a crawl? This is my reminder that I am not in control. My striving is short-lived and as the pendulum swings back, I see: there is no “fixing” this, only continuing to struggle with it. Like Jacob, who wrestled with God, I wrestle with my ideas of God. As a result, over the years, I, too, walk with a limp, an injury of the soul.

Doubt.  What was I thinking? Is there anything left in me to see the unseen? Or at least look for it? Or will my dreams be only projections of my reality? My once-clinched fists now cover the shame of my face, exposing the shame of my faith. For the moment, I have lost it. In the battle for my mind, my enemy is not another, but myself. I look into a mirror and see the one I am fighting. Every day, I fight me. Upon the battleground of my mind, I face my fears. All of the things I want to believe must be considered in light of the facts, the realities of existence.

Hope. Then, there is hope. On the days that my faith prevails, I am hopeful for a better tomorrow. I am hopeful that clarity and a sense of meaning is reachable. On that day, I feel as is I live and function in perfect harmony with myself. There are still times of doubt, but they do not squelch the light of faith and hope. Instead, hope resets my heart to believe again. Even against the odds, hope beckons me to consider a way forward, still. Hope reminds me: there is positive potential beyond our fears. Though doubt does not fully overtake my faith, I realize that genuine faith only exists with the presence of doubt. In a way, faith and doubt are not adversaries, but complimentary. Doubt pushes faith to a place of discomfort, a state of searching. Hope pushes me back to a place of possibility, a place of faith.

My whole life, I have been taught and conditioned to believe that doubt is for the weak of faith. I am learning just how far that is from the truth. Without doubt, I would not have a faith that is tested. What good is untested, blind belief? Consider how all of our basic beliefs about life are built on certainty. We believe the sun will rise because it does so, every morning. We believe in gravity because we have all fallen down. We believe in death because it has greatly affected us. There is no room for doubt in such certainty.

Faith is not certainty. At times, it is improbability. What sane person would believe the sun would not come up this morning? Or that gravity does not apply to them? Yet, that is precisely the type of claims faith makes. It is impractical, thus, it can and should be doubted. This is an important distinction for anyone who has faith in anything: faith does not always make sense. Doubt is how I realize this. Nevertheless, doubt does not have the final say; for by the very nature of faith, it must have the last word.

Faith is not the absence of tension; no, faith is the guarantee of it.

Speaking The Right Language Part 1: Clarity

For as long as I live, I will never forget that moment.

We were standing on the London Bridge in the chill of an English evening. We were talking with people as they walked past us. Some people would stop and chat; others passed by as if we were a nuisance. It was about an hour into this exercise when we met two seemingly sweet, college-age Korean ladies. Since one of our friends was Korean, he started the conversation. From the beginning, the conversation was going really well! My Norwegian friend and I were trying out the Korean phrases we learned from our Korean friends. As we finished each phrase, it was clear that these ladies were becoming more and more impressed with our vocabulary. And then, it happened.

When I say “it,” please imagine the worst of things you could ask somebody. I mean degrading, uncouth, and creepy.   Then think about your reaction to such a thing; that is what this moment felt like. To say things got awkward does that moment a disservice. For the sake of censorship, I will not say what was said, but all my friend did was mispronounce ONE WORD and it sent these ladies swiftly on their way with looks of confusion and fear.

As I have had much time to reflect on that moment, it made me realize in a new, embarrassing way: Words are a dangerously powerful force. The thing is, we did not even realize what was said until much later- after my Korean friend removed his trembling hands from his face, exposing his embarrassment.

This was the beginning of a process: I began to realize that language is complicated.

Along with different languages comes different challenges and opportunities for misunderstanding. For example, certain English words do not have an equivalent in another language.

In other words, there are things that we just cannot communicate the same.

With the growing polarity in out world, there is a growing need for clarity in the words we use.

What happens when language is vague and ambiguous? We have all experienced- people say things that require translation. Even when we speak the same language, we still have to assume, translate, and process.

This is why we need to be clear when we talk about God. This is scary in the context of Scripture. Most people rely on their pastors to communicate from the Scriptures. The problem with this is that this creates secondhand language. Anything that is not accurate can derail and misinform, thus, is the challenge of a pastor.

However, there is no easy fix. Being clear does not completely solve the problem. Instead, being clear is just an attempt to limit the amount information in order to increase the amount of understanding.

But we must fight for clarity to rescue our culture from growing norms of language. The increasing polarity has left us divided; we must respond.

When we speak, may it be with caution and clarity. And in doing so, may we communicate like never before.

The Divorce of the Church

Captain Obvious here, but the Christian world is becoming more and more polarized. 

Social media has become a sounding board for cutting comments, controversies, and confusion, leaving me torn. Like a child of divorce, I feel as if I am forced to choose a side. Like a couple arguing in public, Twitter and Facebook have become extremely visible platforms for these nasty encounters.  If we are not careful, we will let this separation further damage the reputation and power of the local Church in the community.

As I have tried to watch from the sidelines, I feel like I need to speak up. The truth is: this feels like a divorce, with each side going their own way. And two people going in opposite directions will never meet in the middle. So, how do we respond? Because honestly, I’m tired of being the middle of it.

How can an organism (the Church) live if it is cut in half? This separation is more than metaphorical and if not dealt with, will catalyze the unraveling of the Church, piece by piece.

To my friends on the Right, come to the middle. See the potential and power in unity and open-handed conversation. I know that it is natural to want to hold on tighter to your core beliefs, but running further away from the points of separation are not going to help you. You are running to a place that will be your undoing. There are beautiful things you stand for and I believe the world needs your message, but failure to change and adapt over time will make you prey on the evolutionary chain. As you wrestle with these tough issues, keep Jesus in the center (not creeds, Bible verses, or doctrines) and He will drive you to love. And love will bring you back to the middle, where reconciliation happens.

To my friends on the Left, come to the middle. Remember the beauty of unity and what the early Church accomplished by having all things in common. If someone’s message is not grace-filled, you accomplish nothing by responding in the same manner. There are many things to learn from the other side, but mutual respect is vital. Please do not lash out when certain people stand against or for things you do not, there is an ocean of divide already. When you disagree, have those conversations in private, not in public for everyone to join the fight. As you question everything, do so with love in mind. Remember, it is love that is the center of Jesus’ message and the only thing that matters. Theologies will fail; social justice will fail; people will learn and forget. But only the love of God endures it all.

Lastly, we are all on the same team. We are all searching for truth. Our journey is different and to some extent, the conclusion will arrive at will be different. But that is okay! God is capable of revealing himself differently to different people. Just as he gave us individual gifts, personalities, etc., we can know him in different (dare I say contradictory) ways.

Most of all, love well. Let our conversations be gracious, assuming the best about our counterpart. There is always room for constructive and helpful dialogue between two persons from differing views. This is what makes us humans unique.

A “Fair” Review on The Movie Noah

Noah has attracted some attention from Christians that blows my mind. I thought the Church was past this, but this movie has made a serious impact outside of the entertainment world. Everyone from every sect of life seems to have an opinion about the film. Not simply an opinion, but many people that are not in favor of the film are especially vocal. Pastors from across America have used the pulpit to bash the film. Moreover, many people (that have no real background in biblical studies) have been quick to reject the film on the basis of being “unbiblical.”

In this tense and confusing environment, I offer my review.

First, let’s give some credit to the film! With the large budget and all-star cast, Noah is visually and emotionally satisfying. The special effects are great and Russell Crowe delivers an award-worthy performance. Darren Aronofsky did a brilliant job writing and directing the film. I was on the edge of my seat (yes, I know how the story ends, but the drama had me on edge). Before we look at some of the challenges and differences of the film, give credit where credit is due.

What about the story versus the Bible? 

This is the type of comparison I think we should avoid. When thinking about Noah, it is important to understand that this movie is written as an ancient, Jewish method of interpretation called midrash. Midrash attempts to fill in the gaps of biblical stories; and, in short, its purpose is to deal with challenges in the Hebrew Bible by exploring things in greater detail. That is exactly what Aronofsky does with Noah.

Keep in mind, this film was never intended to be biblically exact. To help with processing, I would suggest you think of it as a story inspired by the story of Noah from the Bible. The truth is, if you wanted to make a movie about Noah and only used the information provided in Genesis 6-9, your story would be limited. Making a 2 hour film would prove more than a challenge. Aronofsky’s remedy for this is to explore and elaborate on Noah and his family. Thus, we see a magnified focus on Noah’s temperament and struggle with the task he is given. And like any good storyteller, the film does a great job of bringing to light Noah’s dynamic with his family and the world around him.

Since the movie is an interpretive story, the movie is full of additional characters and subplots. From the Watchers to the added love story, there is a more involved story of Noah and the ark. Yes, the added stuff is fictional and is in no way intended to be biblically-binding, but there are some major ideas to consider.

Within Aronofsky’s story of Noah, I left the theater with two things to consider:

1) Are we taking care of the earth like God intended?

There is definitely an environmentally-friendly message to the movie. For example, the point is made that humanity is being punished for their sins against not the Creator, but the earth. Then the statement is made, “we broke the world.” It made me wonder, “how does God feel about our lack of respect for the world around us?”

There is also a vegetarian message to the movie. Noah and his family are vegetarians and the others are carnivores and seemingly depicted as barbaric for their meat consumption. Whether they pull an animal apart or bite the head off of a snake, the movie shows consuming meat in a gross manner.

The others also seem to be depleting the land of its resources. Several times, Scripture is quoted in a harmful manner to push their meat-consumption and neglect for the world around them. The others are contrasted with Noah and his family, planting and tending beautiful, green pastures. Underneath the story is the message that just as Adam and Eve were created to take care of the earth, Noah and his family were considered righteous because they took care the earth.

2) Justice, Mercy, and Redemption

Justice is a major theme of the movie. Because of man’s treatment of the world, because of Adam and Eve’s sin, because of the children of Cain’s wickedness, The Creator is going to destroy the world. But wait, it gets better! Noah has dreams of an apocalypse, in which every man, woman, and child will be suffer “death by water.”

For Noah, God is justified in his plan to execute justice upon humanity.

Yet, as the story progresses, we see Noah and his family wrestle with the task at hand. The plot reaches its climax as Noah tells the family after the flood, they will all die and be the last human beings to live. Extinction. Just as Noah gets ready to kill his two granddaughters,  mercy intervenes. When Noah looks at the little babies, all he feels is “love in his heart.” Mercy triumphs over justice. And in the same way Noah and his family are spared, he spares his granddaughters.

After the flood, when land appears and the sun comes out, Noah has a revelation: this is not the end, but the beginning.

God has given humanity another chance, redemption. He gives them the opportunity to start over and live as originally intended in the Garden of Eden. This redemption comes full circle as Noah returns from his drunkenness and reunites with his family. Noah’s family became recipients of redemption and have new life to live in a renewed earth. The Creator’s anger is satisfied and he makes all things new (sound familiar?).

If you are looking for a Sunday School story only, do not see Noah. If you are looking at your Bible to evaluate the biblical authenticity of the movie, do not see Noah. But if you are looking for a story about our world, how we lost our way and how God won us back through justice, mercy, and redemption–check it out!

Why Believe? Part 5: Scripture & The Evolution of God

ev·o·lu·tion

1. A gradual process in which something changes into a different and usually more complex or better form. 

Evolution. We see it everywhere. From classrooms to textbooks, conversations to personal thought, evolution is a hot topic. At the heart of evolutionary theory is a drive to find out where we came from and how change over time happened.

In the same line of thinking, I want to talk about our understanding of God.

From the beginning, our understanding of God has been limited. Thousands and thousands of years pass and we still ask the same types of questions: “Who is God?” “Can we know him/her/it?” “What can we learn from this being?” All the questions eventually lead to one particular word, why.

This journey of seeking why leads us to our attempts at understanding the divine. Every chance we get, we stop and ask why. When we look at faith, we can start to see God as the answer to some of these questions that cannot by answered by any human school of reasoning or academia. In the process, we find religion and our progressive understanding of God.

If we look back to the writers of Scripture, we can see the same journey. Because at the heart of Scripture is a continued learning, growing, relearning, and understanding of the divine.

With this in mind, we can backtrack through the scope of Scripture and see how our understanding of God has evolved.

1. Over time, our knowledge and understanding of God has increased. 

Genesis 1 begins with a poem. It tells the story of how God was there at the beginning of it all. Not only that, but God is the architect of the world around us. Slowly and methodically, the story is rolled out as we read it. And just as things were brought to light by the Creator, we start to realize things around us that we never thought of before. At once, there is a world of uncertain possibilities and potential. There is order that we can see, process to consider, and beauty to behold. Although, vast and plentiful is the information, our understanding of God is still limited.

But over time, we begin to see more of God.

Consider the progression:

In Genesis, we are introduced to God and the beginning of a faith and a nation.

In Exodus, we learn that this God is involved in the matters of his people. The Israelites were enslaved and God finds a man, Moses, to lead the people out of slavery.

Leviticus introduces a law, or contract between the human and divine.

In the historical books, God raises up judges and kings to protect and rescue his people (more involved).

The Prophets are written accounts of God-ordained oracles that continue to tell of God’s love and commitment to the nation of Israel; God continues do propel people towards justice.

The Gospels then show us God gives his Son to save the world.

All of these parts add to the story of who God is and what we know about him. These stories and accounts are recorded in human record (the Bible) and are proof our continued understanding.

2. The evolution of God is actually the evolution of how we think about, interact with, and know about God.

What we know affects how we act. But there is a point-a gap really- where reason cannot explain and we are forced to have faith. It is in these areas that our knowledge of God is tested. True knowledge requires no faith, so we are faced with a decision to believe and carry on or end the journey. In these moments, how will you respond? On one hand, we might feel trapped or crippled by a failure to understand or we can see the obstacle as another opportunity to evolve and grow our faith to learn something new about God.

Evolution is all about the process. So in the learning, the struggling, and the questioning, remember we are all somewhere in the process. Hang in there.

 

 

Why Believe? Part 4: How Do We Deal with The Old Testament?

Have you ever taken something literally that was either a joke or metaphor? Trust me, I know just how embarrassing that can be. How do you react to that moment? Do you laugh it off? Do you make an excuse?

Believe it or not, we can misunderstand the Bible in the same manner.

In the Western society, it is amazing how much we take literally in the Bible. Obviously the Bible is a real book containing real people and real events, but something we often forget to consider is the Bible is a book. A book is a beautiful work of art. It takes the reader on a journey and tells them a story. The Bible, as a collection of books, can be read in the same manner. Specifically, the Old Testament is a collection of writings with specific literary purposes.  If we take everything literally, we can rob the literature of its genre and original intent.

In order to establish a basic foundation, I will ask three simple questions to guide us in our reading of the Bible.

1) What is the genre?

Have you ever read Genesis, Exodus, or any other book of the Old Testament and asked, “does this book have a genre?” If not, it’s ok, but not considering genre can be misleading to the meaning and original intent of the passage. In the OT alone, there are genres to consider such as: law, history, poetry, and prophetic. And not only do certain books have genre, but within the book, certain passages have a particular genre or literary use.

For example, Genesis is a part of the Law, but specifically Genesis 1 can be read as a narrative. When thought of as a narrative, the creation account is then read poetically.  Keep in mind here, the Hebrew readers (original audience) did not see this as a historical account of creation, but rather a story that reveals it is God (YHWH) that created the world.

Misunderstanding genre can get us into trouble in today’s society, particularly when we talk about history. For us, we see history as something we find in a textbook that has been tested, fact-checked, and scientifically proven. This is NOT how the Old Testament writers would have thought about scripture. They were more concerned about furthering tradition and keeping a record of God’s interaction in their lives than making a scientific textbook. The Bible is a work of art, thus we must free it from unintended expectations.

2) Who is the audience?

Believe it or not, we are not the intended audience of the Bible. In fact, there was an original audience that read the Bible for different reasons. To help distinguish the audience, I want to point out the Bible is a Jewish book. Since the book is Jewish, it is important to read and interpret likewise.

The Old Testament, for the Jewish people, is their book . It contains their story. It is a part of who they are and a map of where they come from. Furthermore, the Old Testament captures the beginning of God’s interaction with humanity. It documents heroes of the Jewish faith, such as: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, David, the prophets, and so forth.

These people all had three things in common. 1) They were chosen by God. 2) They were integral in the establishment of Jewish faith. 3) They were a part of the audience and the story.

Simply put, the Old Testament was originally for a Hebrew audience.

So the question is: how can understanding genre and audience shape our reading?

3) What can we learn from it?

Since the Bible was not written “to us” but “for us,” what can we really learn from it?

This question has been on my mind more recently than ever. We are surrounded by a culture that will copy and paste a verse of Scripture to use in any and every situation. The problem with that is we often use the Bible to say something it never meant nor said. Unfortunately, this type of misinterpretation is prominent in most churches.

One practical way we can learn from the Bible is by learning background and context to ease the cultural challenges of our day. By asking what the passage meant to the original reader (exegesis), we can learn by principle and similar experiences. In this method, we see and compare ourselves to the original audience.

Another way we can learn from the Bible is through God’s Spirit. As a Christian, we believe that God’s presence is always with us; thus, the Spirit can guide us in our reading and understanding (revelation/illumination).

The challenge remains to read and understand the Old Testament, thousands of years after its composition and amidst cultural dissimilarities. This is no easy task, but establishing genre and audience is a great start.

As we seek to read and interpret with a desire to understand the Old Testament with proper context, we will reduce and even prevent many of the misunderstandings that can occur.

Remember, the Bible was not written to us, but for us.