Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Context, context and context

I attend bible study every Friday night, or at least I try to. The material used is Avery T. Willis Jr's Masterlife Series - The Disciple's Mission. Others may find it useful but I would prefer a more bible-centered hermeneutical material. I find that The Masterlife Series focuses on Christian life lessons and pulls up verses to substantiate them. Last Friday, the bible study also included material taken from Rick Warren's Purpose Driven Life, who also in my opinion take verses out of context to fit into his thoughts.

During the study, we were given these steps to horizontal reconciliation, apparently from Warren. I am not convinced over the choice of verses.

1. Talk to God before talking to the person (James 4:1-2)
2. Always take the initiative (Matt 5:23-24)
3. Sympathize with their feelings (Phil 2:4)
4. Confess your part of the conflict (Matt 7:5, Ps 73:21-22)
5. Attack the problem and not the person (Prov 15:1, 16:21)
6. Co-operate as much as possible (Rom 12:18)
7. Emphasize reconciliation, not resolution (1 Pet 3:11)

My thoughts:
I am okay with #1 though I’d prefer the richer word “pray” rather than just “talk”, but James 4:1-2 is completely taken out of context here. #2 is accepted. When the leader explained #3, he said that we should not pay attention to the facts but to the person’s feelings on the rationale that when a person is distracted either in anger or fear, the “facts” would most probably be illogical. I don’t know where to start analyzing this! And how Phil 2:4 comes into play, I have no idea. #4 is ok if you are in the wrong – it would be imperative to. Matt 7:5 is applicable but the usage of Ps 73 is beyond me. I challenged #5 with Acts 5. Moreover, the phrase that was repeatedly uttered was “hate the sin and not the person”, which in my opinion is a fallacy. God hates the wicked as much as their sins, though I must qualify that God’s hate is a holy one, and how would you reconcile #5 with Matt 18:15-17? #6 is quite a dangerous statement – what does he mean by “co-operate”? And Rom 12:18 implies that peace is not always possible. With #7, which I have coincidently worked on several days ago, I have a problem too. Reconciliation is a profound doctrine on the restoration of our relationship with the Father. Any mention of reconciliation in the horizontal perspective must be in the light of the cross. Without the cross, reconciliation is not possible. Moreover, 1 Pet 3:11 is not about reconciliation. And where is forgiveness? Reconciliation cannot happen without forgiveness. We discussed about events where reconciliation was publicly carried out, but forgiveness was not apparent. It was all but a sham.

As much as I was in disagreement with the treatment of bible passages, I was alright with the lesson - reconciliation within the body of Christ is a necessity. Our reconciliation with the Father must be mirrored within the faith community. However, we agreed that it is not something that is easy to do.

But then I must say, I really had fun during the bible study, tackling the verses, and see how we can apply the lessons in our lives. We will be doing John 17 this week, one of the epitome passages in the Gospel of John, being the prayer of Jesus after his farewell discourse. I am looking forward to studying that one together.



  1. Oh, how I would enjoy to study the Bible in a room with you! I love how you can be as frustrated with some of these issues and still walk out with something useful - and have a good time in fellowship. I agree completely with your thoughts on the scriptures out of context, here. Of course, I have no memory for verse, but I can remember the stories. Otherwise, I am sure I would have a fine penchant for taking things out of context regularly!

  2. haha ... i am bad with memory verses as well. But I can remember the few verses I memorised about 20 years ago!! Which makes me think we should make our kids do a lot!!

    We will work towards accomplishing having bible study together ;)

  3. Pearlie- I was thinking much the same about how good it would be to be in a Bible study with you. You live too far away from us :)

  4. Thanks Julia :) and yea ... the distance.