Perspective Changes Everything

perspectiveToday, 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.

I Don’t Get It

child-reading A few weeks ago, I was helping out in BLAST, our mid-week kid’s program here at the church. They needed help in my son’s class, so I was there.

During my time there, the story was on trusting God, and talking about Abraham, Isaac and God. After talking about it for a while, our leader asked someone to summarize it. They had done a great job teaching, and so Hudson jumped right up and shared about the story. And then, as he recounted it exactly as it happened (about God asking Abraham to trust him by being willing to sacrifice his son Isaac), Hudson looked confused and then said, “Wait, I don’t get it.”

I think that’s incredibly honest because honestly, who does get this story? I mean it’s not an easy story to understand in a straightforward way. Scholars have loads of interpretations of this story and Jewish Midrash (a genre of rabbinic literature) on this story are pretty extensive too. Some have creative ways of interpreting it, in which God isn’t asking for a sacrifice, but rather to teach a lesson on the lack of need for sacrifice. Others read it in a straightforward way that comes with complications about God’s character. And, my post isn’t to wade into all of the complexities and offer you my interpretation (although, of course, I have one).

My point is just this – sometimes when you come to a difficult biblical passage, it’s okay to say, “I don’t get it.” There are lots of these stories in the Bible that almost defy an easy, straightforward explanation. The story of Abraham and Isaac is one. The story of the shrewd manager is another, in which it seems like God is in favour of cheating. The parable of the talents in Luke is another story that is anything but straightforward.

So, I write all this to remind us of one thing – it’s okay to say, “I don’t get it.” Following Jesus and trusting in the Bible doesn’t mean it’s easily accessible (or make it such either). The fact that there are tough things to interpret doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it to put in the work to understand it deeper.

So, this post is meant to be an encouragement because what I was reminded of, through my son, is that we forget, as adults, thatit’s okay to say that you don’t get it, to wrestle with the text, to wonder, and to have doubts and questions. Because, as Hudson learned that night at BLAST, that’s the start to learning – by saying you don’t understand.

So, saying, “I don’t get it” isn’t wrong. Sometimes, it’s just honest.