When I taught drama, I used to come to class with a little vignette, something I’d act out for my students. As an exercise, they were to tell me what had happened in my little “story.” It was usually something I’d seen on the street, or in a store. Without using a single word, my students could tell what was going on. They accurately guessed the emotions involved. The action portrayed the whole event. It was a simple matter of interpretation.
Not so with the Bible.
When I started this project, this blog through the Bible, I noticed that there was a lot of talk about the Bible and Jesus on the Internet, but very few bloggers who actually used the words of the Bible to analyze its content. I wanted to change that. I guess I thought I could contribute something healthy to what might be a very dark world.
Recently someone I know was ranting about moral failure in our world. She felt strongly that “people” should know better than to make this particularly aggravating and wrong moral choice. I nearly corrected her. The Bible, I would have said, tells us not to judge the world. That got me to thinking. Pondering. Wondering. What about believers? Who are we to judge? And in my own little quiet time, I found myself in Romans.
Here is a little puzzle for you:
In Romans 14, it says, “Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls…” and, “Therefore let us not judge one another anymore. . .” The message is clearly that we are NOT to judge our brothers in faith (who are servants of Christ, not our own servants). Then, in Romans 5, Paul says, “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church?” Hmmmmmm.
Those two contradictory ideas might be baffling. An unbeliever would proclaim, “I TOLD YOU SO. The Bible is full of contradiction. You can’t trust it.”
Clearly, the meanings of those two ideas — that we don’t judge our fellow Christians and that we do — are revealed in the context of the passages where they are found. When do we judge? And when do we judge not?
You tell me.
And as you think about these two passages, consider how many times you have blithely rattled off what you “know” to be a Biblical truth. At the time, were you aware of the context of the passage you so confidently quoted? Have you caught yourself giving advice without context?
Think about these ideas: Divorce. Remarriage. Judgement. Correction. Comfort. Have you heard “absolutes” declared in the absence of context? Or, as equally confusing have you heard context (amplification and excuses) added to “principles” which are clearly absent from the passages themselves?
It makes you think, doesn’t it? Context is everything!