There are two dangerous cultural memes we must be mindful of in Christendom. We must be wary of a prejudicial spirit, and we must be wary of a lack of diligent approach to scriptures. A prejudicial spirit cannot preach the gospel of love and compassion. A bigoted spirit cannot preach reconciliation. When our understanding of righteousness is mixed up we arrive at this sorry pass. It often manifests in legalism.
A legalistic mindset is merciless, vindictive and lacking in compassion. It will afflict a wounded soul. In the story of the Good Samaritan we see the juxtaposition of the spirit of Jesus and religiosity. The religious folk are high on religious observance but lacking in essential compassion. They refused to help a critically injured man, distancing themselves from his suffering and affliction. Till today, the religious distance themselves from afflicted souls and those wounded by the dynamics of life. Instead of binding up the brokenhearted they judge, malign, contemn and manoeuvre avoidance.
The spirit of Jesus is antithetical to the religiosity and pompous hypocrisy of pharisaism. Religiosity is pride masquerading as righteousness. And religiosity obfuscates self-introspection. Pride, the Bible says, “makes one overestimate himself and underestimate others.” Proverbs 6:16 (AMP). We are prone to forgetfulness of the classic fact that our righteousness is a gift. It was never earned. Were we to remind ourselves of that simple fact, none of us will be condemnatory towards others. And the vitriol of condemnation can be alarming. Comes with a tinge of wickedness and envy
Truth is, when we condemn others, we are reflecting our personal struggles with sin, compensating with decibels. A condemnatory spirit is a reflection of the fallen nature of man. Adam condemned God for his own failings. The practice of seeking to regulate the lives of others ignores a vital biblical injunction: 1 Thessalonians 4:11 says, Mind your own business. God never advertised the position of Assistant Bishop of Souls, yet some insist on serving in that capacity. They measure the quality of righteousness of others by how far they conform to their cultural sensibilities. Truth is, were Jesus on earth today some Christians will condemn him. They will definitely condemn their Saviour for not ordering the death of the woman caught in adultery. They will condemn their Saviour for allowing a sinful woman to perfume his feet and wipe them with her hair. They will definitely condemn their Savior for attending parties, and taking wine. Two sins! That Jesus turned water into wine will of course be sacrilegious. They would have sent him to the cross much earlier. Oh, they will condemn Jesus for hobnobbing with the rich and powerful, for granting them audience. Clearly there is something askew in our understanding. We don’t seem to get it! Jesus was telling us something: It’s okay to be cool, connected, intelligent and cosmopolitan. But let God be your CORE.
The other issue of concern is our lazy attitude towards scripture study. That prejudicial disposition is epiphenomenally tied to our lack of appreciation of the spirit of the New Testament. The spirit of the New Testament is not fire and brimstone. Jesus said so. “The Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives,” Jesus said in Luke 9:55. You can’t interpret scriptures outside the spirit of the New Testament. And you can’t conduct yourself outside of it. The Bible encourages us to STUDY scriptures, not just read it. It’s how we prove ourselves. “Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved, a workman who has no cause to be ashamed correctly analyzing and accurately dividing, rightly handling and skillfully teaching the Word of Truth” 2 Timothy 2:15 (AMP). It means scriptures need analysis, dissection and deconstruction.
You need skill to handle the word of God. Paul warns against nitpicking scriptures in 2 Timothy 2:14. Called it “pious nitpicking”. Nitpicking makes us quote scriptures out of context, and some do so recklessly. The devil thrives in misquotation of scriptures. He invented the trick at the temptation of Jesus. In what should be a warning to non-contextualisers, Satan gave nefarious commands to Jesus, misquoting scriptures. The devil quotes scriptures. He’s literate! He’s also an intellectual by the way! He studies scriptures. He quotes scriptures out of context to get people to do HIS will thinking they’re doing God’s will. He told Jesus to jump off the temple quoting Psalm 91:11-12. Satan reads the Bible. It’s a book!
That the devil quoted Psalms also tells us he’s interested in history. The Psalms were written over a 1000-year period. Psalm 90 is probably the oldest Psalm. Its authorship is attributed to Moses. Psalm 137 was clearly written at the time of Babylonian captivity, 586-538 BC. So the devil is interested in history. That includes your personal history. It’s why he can tell you your past. But Jesus responded to the devil’s Bible misquote by quoting correspondent balancing scriptures. It is this lack of correspondent balance that leads to legalism and ideological approach to scriptures. When you read scriptures, ask yourself what is God’s intension? You’ve got to know the MIND of God concerning issues. It is why we need the Holy Spirit when we read scriptures. He knows the mind of God. (1 Corinthians 2:10-12).
When Jesus said, if your hand causes you to sin cut it off, his intension cannot be to create amputees! (Matthew 5:30). A similar command about the plucking out of eyes cannot signify God’s intension to multiply blindness! The correspondent balance is that Jesus went about doing good, and healing the lame and the blind! How can the healer of the blind and the lame then be instigating amputation and blindness?!
Then there is context. Context is very important in interpreting scriptures. How would you like someone to isolate a statement from your letter and begin to quote you out of context? You can’t just take a statement from Paul’s letter out of context either. Or any other scripture. When Paul says, “Concerning those things you wrote me about…” in 1 Corinthians 7:1, he’s giving you context.
Then there is the rule of syllogism in interpretation of scriptures. When we see the word, “Therefore” we know it’s the conclusion of an argument. For example, Romans 8 begins with, “Therefore…” That means we must read Romans 7! (The Book of Romans is a book every Christian MUST read, whether you’re from Rome or Nigeria)!
Part of the problem is a lack of understanding of FUNDAMENTAL DOCTRINES of Christ, especially salvation by grace. The Bible CANNOT contradict itself. We must interpret scriptures in accordance with fundamental truth. Without a grounding in the fundamentals of Christianity you will always be prone to error.
To interpret scriptures therefore, you must remember the following rules: The rule of intent, the rule of context, the rule of correspondent balance, the rule of syllogism, the rule of doctrine.
© Leke Alder | firstname.lastname@example.org