Today, I want to write something that is true, but can also be challenging… We interpret the Bible through our own experience. This is normal. This is inevitable. It is part of being human to interpret our reality in and through the experiences we have.
But, it is also very problematic.
Why? If you are reading this, you likely, in some way, shape or form, have lots of advantages that others don’t. You have a computer, a smart phone, or some other way to connect to the Internet, which is amazing, if you think about it. You have enough leisure time to read this. You might even have some food or drink easily accessible to enjoy while you peruse Facebook. The point is that many people in life don’t have these advantages and the fact that we do affects how we read the Bible.
Why do I bring this up? Well, if we interpret life and the Bible through our own experiences (which is true) and those experiences are more privileged than most (which is also more than likely true), than we may have a slanted view of the Bible because it is written from a disadvantaged position.
The Bible was written to people struggling in poverty, living under an Empire and, in many ways, were very disadvantaged. For many of us, though, we don’t have the same experience.
Lauren Winner puts it this way, “If we are going to draw on our own daily experiences to help us interpret the Bible’s metaphors for God, those of us who read the Bible, as I do, in well-appointed homes, with plenty of leisure time for this pondering, must make the effort to stretch our imaginations to include experiences beyond our own.”
Winner’s point, and mine, is that unless we stretch our imaginations and experiences to understand what it is like to live in poverty, difficulty, under the Empire, etc., we will not interpret the Bible well. And, in this, I’m not trying to make anyone feel guilty for the advantages they have (as a white male, trust me I have tons), but rather I want to encourage you to become aware of them.
So, while I believe lots of education, training, and study is great to learn the Bible, I also equally believe listening to others and having stretching experiences is absolutely necessary to learning the Bible. My challenge for all of us this week is to try to learn from someone else’s experience that is not your own. Learn what it is like to live with deep health challenges, in poverty, as a refugee or displaced, as a minority, etc. with all the fears and worries that come alongside those things.
Because, when we stretch our imaginations and experiences, we can often find the Bible saying new and needed things to us.