When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” – Luke 18:22
It is funny the scripture we avoid. We often do not even realize we skip this passage or that verse. Sometimes we even know the section and yet for some reason we do not apply them to our theology. This happens quite by accident. We sit in Sunday School and Bible studies with literature we trust, which is what we should do. But when the literature thinks like we do and the people we are surrounded by think as we do… well eventually we begin to miss a bit of this or a bit of that. Often it as simple as stressing truth over grace, or grace over truth – when Christ came to bring both.
Or at other times we pass a passage by, because surely it was not meant for us. Take the rich young ruler. How many times have you heard that story and how often do you then hear that we do not need to sell everything… Of course Jesus said to sell everything (and notice where he says it should go!).
You would expect the pastor to correct this situation. And I certainly want to break out of our ruts, but at the same time there is scripture I am not even sure what to do with. So when it comes time for the sermon I teach what I know. Granted, as you know, I am not afraid to say I do not know something. But there are passages even I pass over. Not out of maliciousness, but because I am at a loss. God is bigger than us and so His story should travel deeper than we can imagine!
One example of this would be the passage for Breathe – our summer’s prayer service. I have not known how to handle the arrival of the Holy Spirit in John. I am so used to the typical, popular, story in Acts – so I have passed by the brief verses in John. Of course when convicted it is never wise to continue to avoid – but face the situation head on. So I based our prayer service on this passage.
I have just finished a book in which the author quotes a great deal of scripture. This is part of what helped me come to the conclusion that there are verses I am not taking seriously. At the same time the author kept quoting single verses. One after another. And I realized at times he was missing the context. He was missing the story.
And this is a problem for us too. Imagine with me a huge crowd. If you were able to zoom in on each person and begin to inspect you might possibly grasp why the crowd was gathered. But if you stepped back and looked at the whole you would instantly know if this was a concert or ballgame or rally. And knowing the purpose for the crowd will help you understand what the individuals are doing!
In the same way, when we work verse to verse we can begin to miss the story. We miss the context. We miss the interpretive key.
Because all scripture must be interpreted. And the key to understanding scripture is the point of the whole story. And what is that point?
He is the full revelation of God – because He is God. Everything should be filtered through Him.
And this story should rule over our lives. Not our traditions or preconceived notions. With a healthy reminder that we do not know everything. After all, we serve the Creator and Savior. It is good that He is bigger and greater than us. So we submit to Him – just as He submitted to the cross.
In this manner we should view ALL of scripture. Reading it over and against ourselves (rather than confirming ourselves). Taking each verse in context of the passage, each passage in context of the book, and all in context of the salvation story. Christ has come to save the world and in submission we will see the whole picture of the life He offers!
4 thoughts on “Sunday School Answers….”
Wow. I think this has to be the best post you have written to date. Excellent stuff here Sean.
So how about Jeremiah 29:11? Should it be viewed in light of the Israelities being exiled to Babylon? As opposed to saying “God wants all of us to be prosperous.” Hmmm????
Thanks Rhett! (Though I am not sure if what that says about my earlier work… but at least I am improving…)
As to 29:11, I think both/and rather than either/or. The history is important, but it also has a reality for us today.
We should, must, read the bible in historical context: For Israel, this verse was a portrait of God redeeming the nation. They were still a part of His plan – they were still a cog in works of salvation history. Through them Christ was coming…
But we must also read the bible in context of the overarching story of salvation history – of Christ. In Christ the story of the world was rewritten. Sin’s power was defeated at the cross. This overarching story also impacts us individually. God is rewriting our story. He has a plan for the world and for you and me and every individual. It is a prosperous plan. Not big houses and fast cars prosperous (too often we make “prosperous” our word – with our definition), but prosperous on His terms. Which is life to the full. Full of relationships and love and sacrifice. Joy.
And this prosperous plan will produce a world we could not imagine, only we know “the wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together, and a little child will lead them.” (Isaiah 11:6)
Great stuff, Sean. Honestly speaking, it’s all too easy to “go with” this verse or that, and simply assume that the common application is accurate. I’ve taken to calling the phenomena “bumper sticker theology”; it’s the idea that we can build a complete frame work around truth with just a few verses.
People whip them out like a surgeon’s scalpel (or… baseball bat), fixing the world one red letter at a time. Wow, if only Jesus had thought of that…
It’s amazing indeed that we don’t find it a little too convenient that Scripture would line up directly with our preconceived notions. Really?!?! Did we think it would be that easy?
Speaking from experience, I can only guess that it’s rooted in ignorance and insecurity. We simply don’t know, or our faith is so easily shaken that we truly NEED that house of cards to stand… it’s all we’ve got.
No matter how much I study, it never fails… the more I learn, the more I sit in wonder. I guess I’m at a place where I’m OK with that.
Hey Grant! Great response. Your image of the house of cards is one I will definitely steal!!!