Thinking about context-Ephesians

10 Jan

Suppose I said to you that the man was mad about his flat. Then I asked you to define what I meant. You might reply that there was a man standing by the side of the road with an unhappy face because his car had a flat time. Sounds good but I would respond that you are wrong. You see the man is from England not America and he is excited about his apartment. The context shapes the words that we hear at times more than the sound of the word itself.

Perhaps I said to a child in France the phrase four score and seven years ago. Maybe in their vocabulary they can put together that fourscore is eighty years ago. Then they add seven to eighty and they get from the sentence that I am talking about an event that happened eighty seven years ago. Perhaps they would say that I was talking about an event that happened in 1920. Had I said this to any American familiar with American history they would automatically associate this with a speech by Abraham Lincoln and the event that he spoke of was the founding of our country.

The speaker and the audience seem to be the determiner of what the words mean. I think this is just the tip of the iceberg in explaining the difficulties we have in just picking up the bible and reading. The bible isn’t some sort of hermeneutically sealed book that fell out of the sky into 21st century American culture. It is a book full of real people, real places and real times. When we try to short circuit the historicity of the text I imagine that we are like an American unsure of why an englishman is excited about his flat or like a student in France trying to figure out what is so important about 1920.

An inherant danger we face is that as humans we have this tendency to make ourselves the center of the universe and time. We tend to make our lives the context through which we interpret everything. Unfortunately we have quite a few blindspots. If we aren’t careful we can turn Jesus into our mascot. Mascot’s entertain us during dull moments at sporting events. No one follows a mascot. Jesus can quickly become a bigger version of us who loves all the things that we love and hates all the things that we hate.

This is probably how we have gotten thousands of denominations. Some people who are so tired of the splitting simply say that if you love Jesus that is all you need. There is truth to that but after I’ve heard their description I’m not sure what Jesus they are talking about. N.T. Wright offers these words to those who want to love others but not ignore who Jesus really is.

“If we are to come together as Christians, it will not be by watering down everything until there is so little left that we can all agree on. It will be by all of us learning more and more of Christ . . . so that we can grow closer to each other because we are closer to him.”

And if we don’t learn to discern who Jesus is and we continue to make him a bigger picture of us and our nation I pretty much feel that this cartoon covers how ultimately deadly this can become:

abso-just-war.jpg

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