Wednesday, April 09, 2008

What does the Bible mean?

I’m starting a new seminary class in a couple of weeks, and because I’m a slow reader, I often get my books early and begin reading them before the class starts. My book for this class made a point that really struck me and I want to share it with you. Here’s what the author wrote:

Is there a difference between what the Bible says and what the Bible means? Or do you believe that “the Bible says what it means, and means what it says!”? There is a difference between “words” and “concepts.” Knowing words and understanding concepts are two different things. Let’s take “Love your enemies” as an example. Anyone who has been in Sunday school or church for even a short time knows that Jesus said “Love your enemies.” But how many understand what He meant when He said this?

What do I do when I love enemies? And who are my enemies? Must I like my enemies? How will “loving enemies” change the way I live day by day? Jesus define His own words in the passage as He said, “Love your enemies, bless then that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44, KJV). Agape [the word translated “love”] means blessing and doing good and praying for. Nothing here about how I feel about them. “My enemy” means those who curse me, and hate me, and use and hurt me. My enemy can be my best friend, my colleague, my wife, or a fellow church member. When people close to me hurt me, I do not feel like loving them. But I am commanded to love. Not to feel, but to act.

It is far easier to know the words “Love your enemies” than it is to understand their meaning. But until learners clearly understand what Jesus meant, they will not be able to “love their enemies” in the way He intended. Unless Bible teaching can move learners from isolated words to biblical concepts, we will see little spiritual growth in our learners. Without clear biblical understanding, learners tend to read their own meanings into Bible words.

Source: Created to Learn by William R. Yount



Anonymous said...

Not to hurt your feelings, Dave, but are Christians then to be "doormats" for their enemies, and just turn the other cheek?

Should we not "bless" those who curse us by explaining how we feel; thus allowing them to empathize?
Should we not "do good" by those who hate us by trying to be better understood?
Should we not just pray for, but at least attempt to commune and pray with those who prey upon us?

I think humans were given feelings that we might better comprehend and learn from one another. Being Christian is not only giving, but receiving; that others may perform likewise. I agree that an enemy can be friend or foe, and I believe that "loving your enemy" is more than just praying for them.

Dave said...

You won't hurt my feelings by expressing your thoughts :-)

You bring up a good question - should Christians be "doormats"? This question comes up a lot, and in my humanity I say, "No way!" However, those were Jesus' words, not mine. Jesus also did tell us to turn the other cheek. Many attempt to say Jesus was saying someone would have to backhand you to do this - and in that culture they wouldn't do it. But are we trying to rationalize Jesus teaching to fit our own desires? If those who heard Jesus say this and did turn the other cheek they were risking being hit again.

Jesus also said - go the extra mile, etc. and we don't seem to rationalize that teaching.

So, are we to be "doormats"? Maybe so (at least in the world's eyes). Christ went to the cross - was He being a doormat? I think many looking on would say, "Yes." But He knew there was much more than just this earthly existence. So, when we don't react, are we being a doormat? Some may think so, but are we living for an earthly reputation or are we following our Savior?

Great thoughts! I hope we can keep this conversation going!


Anonymous said...

Our savior was a teacher. Perhaps we are taking words by their meaning again; rather than Jesus concept?

"Turn the other cheek" may be interpreted to mean; do not act in kind.

When we are met with anger and hatred, by friend or foe, our feelings are hurt and "fight or flight" impulses tend to cause us to react the same way. "Turning the other cheek" could be swallowing that feeling, placing ourselves in the others shoes and empathizing. Then with compassion trying to "Love" one another by understanding, teaching and learning.

I do not think Jesus on the cross was being a "doormat" but fulfilling a promise, not his but God's. He may have been a "doormat" had he not tried to teach his followers, but only set an example.

Dave said...

I think we agree more than disagree. I would not argue with anything you wrote.

As a believer, I know Jesus was not being a doormat, but what I wrote is I think many (who are not believers) would perceive Him to be one. The whole Bible is "foolishness" to those who do not have a relationship with God through Christ.

My point is that there should be something different about us. We should not REact to situtations - we should be self-controlled and ACT accordingly.

To "love our enemies" is to respond appropriately & not just react.

My time is short right now, but I'm truly enjoying the dialogue!!


Anonymous said...

I am enjoying this as well. I appreciate your time and what Relevant is trying to accomplish in this life.

You have stated well..."We should not REact to situtations - we should be self-controlled and ACT accordingly." I do believe we do agree. Words are insufficient at times, and my education (or lack there of)may denigrate thier meaning.

So continued conversation, both ways, only serves to improve our understanding. This dialog is an example of what we are trying to express, is it not?

Non-belivers may indeed see Christ as a "doormat", but do Christians not pray consistantly; "Thy will be done, on earth, as it is in Heaven." This, to me, is prayer for greater global understanding of Christ's teachings. An effort to suppress misconception.

God bless your weekend, and His peace be with you!

Dave said...

I think through this dicussion we've argued each others points along the way :-)

Your thoughts about "thy will be done" to me is one of the primary points. In going about living for God we are to live the way Jesus live - which means (at times) we'll be perceived as being "used" by people (or, as we've said, appear to be doormats).

I think what struck me most about the reading I posted was the paradigm shift for me. I often think of "enemies" as those I often avoid or who are far away from me (like terrorists or bullies at school). But that's not the only people who will (on occassion) hurt me. And there not the only ones I hurt.

We seem to hurt those closest to us more than those we avoid.

So, to swing the conversation a bit, a good question is - When am I being an "enemy"? I know I'm often too abrupt with my wife and kids. (And they have their times when they're abrupt with me). So, based on what Jesus was saying, how should we handle these times?


Anonymous said...

God is surely mysterious!

Before reading your last post, I overheard someone speak Proverbs 27:6 "Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy."

Do you wound your wife or friend because of your circumstances/feelings or to catch their attention, to tell them something for their own good?

In either case a discussion could ensue that will possibly ease/improve yourself or the other. God is pointing out to me today, I believe, Proverbs 27:17, 'Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another."

This is good!

Dave said...

Sorry for the delay in responding - the last couple days to tax season were kicking my butt.

I agree that there's a "good wound" and a "bad wound". It comes down to my heart / my motive. If I'm lashing out - I'm creating "bad wounds" - unhealthy wounds that ruin relationships. But if I'm pointing out something to help them grow and to lift them up, even if it stings at first, in the end it strengthens our relationship.

It all boils down to the "why?". Why am I doing or saying the things I do and say - selfishness or authentic love?