The Great Con

A certain Atlanta pastor always says, “If you take the ‘text’ out of ‘context’ you’re left with a ‘con.’” My friend and I recently had a discussion about how people interpret the Bible. While it’s true that certain things can minister to different periods in life, most of what’s written is fairly straight forward, especially in the New Testament. Even the parables have a clear message.

Reading the whole Bible in “full” context would require a great deal of time. We all should eventually make time for this; however, there’s a way to understand what is being conveyed based on advice I got years ago. If you’re reading a particular scripture, read the 7 scriptures before it and the 7 scriptures after. Don’t worry if the scriptures cross into other chapters, but it’s not necessary to cross into another books (ex. Matthew into Mark or Numbers into Leviticus). It’s clear that many people do not understand the importance of reading in context. This explains the numerous misunderstandings about the God’s Word and nature; and why we have so many “Christian” religions in the first place: Catholic, Baptist, Methodists, 7-Day Adventists, etc. Note: When people converted to Christianity in the “Bible” days, this divide did not exist. People simply believed and received Jesus (Rom. 10:12). That’s it. We don’t need a million different factions if we’re all serving the same God who has one plan for the world (Eph. 4: 4-6).

CONTEXT IS EVERYTHING! Consider the 1994 classic, The Lion King. Let’s pretend that we show pieces of the movie to 3 different groups. Group A is shown the parts that feature Simba and Nala as childhood friends, then lovers, then parents. Group B dives into Scar’s plan to take down his brother’s kingdom. Group C is presented with Simba’s discovery of Mufasa’s death and Simba’s exile. What will each group say? Group A concludes that the story is about the love between two friends, who decide to make lifelong commitments to each other and raise a family. It offers no real insight into the relationship or the challenges they face. This summary completely excludes Simba’s disappearance, his relationship to his father and his duty to the throne. Group B concludes that Scar is trying to win his “rightful” place on the throne and will do anything to claim his stake. However, we don’t know what circumstances have kept him from being king in the first place? Does he willingly choose to live among the hyenas or was he kicked out of the lion pride? Finally, Group C sees a young lion cub who has just lost his father and then gets run out of town into the desert by hyenas under the orders of another lion. This tells the viewer nothing about Mufasa, the kingdom, Nala or Simba’s mother. Who is the mystery lion with the hyenas? Why was Simba (a child/ cub) exiled? What did he do wrong, … if anything?

Do you see the issue with things being out of context? These 3 pieces of the film tell different, and partial stories; however, when all the pieces come together, it becomes a beautiful masterpiece that leaves the viewer feeling complete. The Word is the same way. Frankly, with a book as extensive as the Bible, you can justify all kinds of things including murder, spousal dominance, ridiculous clothing and weird diets. To know the true character of God, you need to know the Bible in context. If something doesn’t make sense to you, research it or ask someone who has had success in their Christian walk. Notice I said “SUCCESS.” No offense, but if the fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control – Gal. 5:22-23) are not the usual habits of a person, leave them alone. You won’t have all the answers at the beginning, the middle or the end of your journey with God because He’s just too great … too awesome for us to fully comprehend every single thing. But the pieces we can understand, the foundation of who God is, should be accurate so that we can walk in the extraordinary purpose that He has for our lives (Jer. 29:11, John 10:10).

Kirby N. McKinney

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