Are you willing to admit that you might be wrong?
Are you willing to admit that you very well might have actually taken that scripture out of context? That you looked at it through the filtered lenses of preconceived notions or teachings? That it might mean something else altogether?
With age, I am more willing to say “yes” or “possibly” and then dig into scripture to find out. When I was younger and more immature in my faith I would stand my ground and defiantly proclaim what I knew that verse was all about.
I love how Jesus taught scripture by taking the verse’s supposed meaning and spotlighting what it actually meant.
While reading the book Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus, I learned that when Jesus spoke, he was almost always quoting or referencing Scripture (a.k.a. Old Testament passages). He spoke like this to a crowd who already knew the referenced scripture, so instead of quoting the whole thing he would quote just a little.
Let me give an example:
If you were raised in the United States, you have likely recited the Pledge of Allegiance at least thirty times in your life. So if I say, “I pledge allegiance to…”
…all the following words come to mind without me having to say anything. Jesus used a rabbinic technique that basically used this concept.
Reading the Words in Red in a New Way
So we have the opportunity to read the words in red in a whole new way. Instead of reading only the words in red, find the original context Jesus references. This will not only give us a broader understanding of the actual context, but it will give us a better understanding of what Jesus wants us to do with that knowledge.
It’s truly fun to see that the Word who spoke this world into being and has been speaking to people since the beginning of time truly hasn’t changed.
We know this, right? We know the passage that says God never changes. But at the same time, many of us believe in a way he has. What do I mean by this? Many of us say or have said at one time in our lives that all we need is the New Testament; the Old is gone away.
But has He? Has God really changed? Did he really say, “Forget all that came before,” or did he reiterate it so we would really understand what was meant by it?
Let’s look at these verses:
(Again, I highly recommend digging in for yourself.)
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
–Jesus’ brother, James 1:17
For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.
–Jesus, Matthew 5:18
For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.
–Paul, Romans 15:4
The Word does NOT Change
But the truth is that the Word is the word! Jesus is the Word. He always has been from the beginning. Jesus does not contradict himself, but as He walked this earth, he explained more in depth what His words meant.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood.
–John, John 1:1-5
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery. But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
–Jesus, Matthew 5:27-28
A Challenge to You
My challenge to you is this: even if you believe you’ve got the cemented truth from the verse you’re studying, if someone disagrees with you, go ahead and study it more. Look at the whole context starting with the rest of the sentence, the paragraph, the book, and the other books surrounding it. Try to even find an Old Testament reference to gain more insight. The new testament writers, much like Jesus, quoted the Old Testament often. Dig in and see what that reference means.
Sounds like a lot of work…yes, it is! But you don’t have to do it all in one sitting, and it provides an amazing opportunity to openly study with someone else. Maybe the truth is closer to what you think than what they thought. Maybe it’s closer to their understanding. Or maybe–just maybe–by prayer and petitioning for wisdom and insight while digging into the word, God might reveal to both of you more clearly what is meant.
Favorite Phrase to Use When Studying with Others
Every time he opened his bible to study with us, one of our elders said this phrase. It has stuck with me for years.
“This is what I believe today. Tomorrow I will have studied more and may perceive it a little differently.”
Are you are willing to mature in your faith even if it requires outgrowing some of your previous understandings?
I hope so!