A little while ago, John Stonestreet was criticized for focusing on one sin mentioned in Leviticus, and ignoring the rest of them. His graceful answer was to admit that the guy was right. Stonestreet’s whole article (“The Use and Misuse of the Bible”) is worth quoting, but I won’t… quite!

Of course, he talks about our usual mistake of quoting things out of context.

Jewish philosopher and Rabbi Abraham Heschel once remarked to a group of Christians: “It seems puzzling to me how greatly attached to the Bible you seem to be and yet how much like pagans you handle it. The great challenge to those of us who wish to take the Bible seriously is to let it teach us its own essential categories; and then for us to think with them, instead of just about them.”

As Stonestreet says, we should always keep in mind “the big picture” as we’re reading. “And we should keep in mind what kind of book we are reading: history, theology, poetry, prophecy, proverbs, or letters. A letter shouldn’t be picked apart like a proverb, and history shouldn’t be read as theology. Reading it as it was written, in light of the larger context of redemptive history, will help us learn what God is revealing to us about Himself and the world.”

Which takes us back to Dennis’s comment about Leviticus. Leviticus clarified God’s law for the Israelites. Some of these laws were specific to Israel, to set them apart from the other nations. Other laws reflected God’s created order for everybody — such as the the one-man, one-woman sexual love described in Genesis and later endorsed by Jesus and Paul.

You see, it’s the fact that it was later endorsed by Jesus and Paul… and of course “the tragic results of [any] sexual brokenness are evident not only in the Bible but throughout human history.” (The “any” is inferred within the article.)

(Hmmm… can’t believe I read this over just before starting, and I’m still having trouble…): “And But now we have been given a brief moment of grace, for the Lord our God has kept allowed the a few of us that remain to survive as a remnant…”? (Ezra 9:8)


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3 Responses to context

  1. Ken Woodhouse says:

    Very important topic Cathie, one I ponder frequently. Context! What comes to mind for me is the complaint people often pose against Christians, that we’re too focused on “sin”. (I believe that is far less so than years ago and some would even argue we’ve swung too far the other way.) I’ve always wondered why it seems that some sins are considered so much more “sinful” than others. For example, sexual sin is the be all of sin! For some reason sins like greed, gluttony, selfishness, pride etc are brushed aside…yet sexual sin…no no no. I read somewhere that men are apt to look at the log in another’s eye before looking at the one in their own (Hm, can’t remember where that came from lol). It’s easy for me to condemn, for example, the homosexual act because I don’t do that nor am I ever tempted to do that. It’s harder to really come to terms with my own sinful behaviours. So people spend endless amounts of time trying to make sure that one form of sin is seen as worse than others…namely the other guy’s.
    I can remember in a church bible study a few years ago, a debate broke out about whether one can lose his/her “savedness” (I made that word up lol). Every week people came in with new bible verses supporting one view over the other. Finally the Pastor, the finest Christian I’ve ever known, said “I think some things we just have to leave to God”. My point being that we can spend so much time debating the letter of the law that we lose the spirit. Some things I must leave to God to sort out. But what I do know is that “God is love”, ‘cuz the bible tells me so :) So maybe what we need to focus on is loving our neighbour because that context is pretty clear. Anyway, I hope this rant touched on something in your blog lol. I enjoyed reading it.

  2. Cheryl says:

    Very wise words, Mr. Woodhouse.

  3. crazycathie says:

    Yes, I thought so too. Usually I just answer by email, because I’m not sure the person will get it here, but then the problem is that people don’t see my answer!

    Besides saying his comments were excellent, I also added that sometimes loving someone may involve gently pointing out some sin, and Ken agreed “absolutely”. : ) But of course, love is the most important thing.

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