Sunday, February 15, 2009

Words out of context

Reading in Erik Kobell's, The God of Second Chances, I came upon these words on page 6, "I go to church to hear sermons about how the gospel ratifies my beliefs rather than shapes them, how the poor will always be with us, why masters must be good to their slaves and wives subservient to their husbands."

Words taken out of context are so easily twisted and turned to one's advantage. Certainly the phrase that Mr. Kobell uses is meant to be a question to the reader ...."Do you got to church to, etc." But just reading the phrase above, out of context, one could get the impression that Mr. Kobell has chosen to sit in a congregation where his personal needs are the only thing that matters i.e., he takes the biblical phrases he chooses to hear and reads no further, studies no more, listens without heart to the message that God is trying to deliver through Holy Scripture.

I do not mean to offend anyone who is a literal reader and believer that God dictated every word of Holy Scripture. So if you are that reader, I hope you'll bear with me and just keep reading. Although I do not believe that God dictated every word exactly as it was taken down by scribes and translated over the centuries, rather I believe that God's messages were written into the words of Holy Scripture and that I, as a believer, must work at understanding the messages that are being delivered to me. For me that means reading the text in in its context - meaning the historical time and events of the recording. Furthermore, it means trying to understand what those words would have meant in that place and time and most of all listening, truly listening and honoring what I believe the scriptures say to me today in my life as a living being, as a woman, mother, friend, artist, colleague, and Christian - in other words what the scripture says to me in regard to all of the roles that I find myself filling at this time in my short history.

Some would scoff and say "listening?" hear words in your head? Well, I can't explain the knowledge, courage, power, peace and direction I feel after engaging in active study, reading, and listening to Holy Scripture, but yes, though I could not articulate the "words" that are given me, I know as surely as I write today that God does speak to me, to us, through the words we find in the Holy Bible - any translation of it. I have begun to cease being startled when I come upon a familiar passage - familiar in that I've heard and studied it since childhood, when suddenly the words impart a new message to me so clearly I find it ridiculous that I've never "heard" that message before......

So, taking scripture out of context, quoting it as a tool or even a weapon occasionally does not make sense to me. The context, for me, is essential to my listening and hearing what the scriptures are saying - saying not to justify my goodness in attending church and hearing words from the pulpit, choosing those that make me feel most comfortable, but to justify my actions of peace, love and good will in my everyday life. Make sense? Maybe, maybe not. Thanks for listening!

Have a wonderful Sunday!


  1. Amen, Sister! I agree with you on that one!

    Oh, and aloha! I know you both must be delighting in your time on that lovely island. Safe travels when you return.

  2. words out of context can be a real challenge whether it be the biblical text, political observations or conversation with a loved one...or anyone for that matter. i truly believe that listening is at the heart of understanding - from a very small to a very large (i.e. worldwide, universal) context.

    great post. xoxox

  3. MS - thanks for your comment - oh, yes, we are loving the peace, quiet and beauty of Maui!

    Lucy - Listening, listening - it is the key. I so agree!