My oldest son was watching this commercial while we were in a restaurant. He had seen it before and he laughed when it came on as he exclaimed, “Look! The commercial where the man is running after the boy like, ‘Hey, Give me my taco back!’” It was obvious that although he had seen this commercial multiple times; and I wanted to say, “Dude, you’re missing the point!” (That wasn’t the time or place.) He was seeing the same things I was seeing, and hearing the same things I was hearing, but the real message was missed by him. Why? Because he didn’t understand the meaning of the phrase, “Her parents came home early”. See, in his world, the real meaning of that phrase doesn’t compute. Due to this he unknowingly supplies his own context and meaning to make sense of the commercial. The thought of two young people engaging in physical contact that would set the daughter’s loving father on the war path never even crosses his mind. So the clear meaning of the commercial is that the grown man came home early and walked in on the kids eating his Taco Bell food, now he is chasing the boy out of the house trying to recover the meal.
We may laugh, but that is exactly what has happened in many of our churches. We have divorced Scripture from it’s context. We see something in the text and, if we aren’t careful, we read the words through our own world/culture and supply meaning to the text. Due to this, many times, we get the real meaning wrong. This doesn’t occur to us though, so we continue to build upon these false understandings. Some entire denominational movements are founded on wrong understandings of a text. And the funny thing is, when someone else comes along with a nuanced understanding, we say, “The text is clear!” or “A plain reading of the text says….” Like my son, there’s no way we could be misunderstanding something that just so blatantly clear.
See, while the truths of Scripture are timeless, the capsule in which they are contained is not. It is dated. Yet, we have this nasty habit of bringing our own cultural presuppositions and understandings to the text and interpreting it through our own world instead of the original world it was written in. The misunderstandings we develop (we all have them to some degree) are extremely difficult to overcome because it requires us to understand the culture of the author, the culture of the audience (many times the history that came with them), popular phrases and metaphors of that time period, etc. in order to understand the meaning of the text. Add the need to look at a passage or set of passages differently to the world shifting realization that we could have been wrong about something we were so sincerely sure of all this time, and many people walk away from truth. Many don’t want their world shaken by understanding; they would rather live by the motto “Ignorance is bliss.” instead of “The truth will set you free.” Don’t be one of those people. I know I don’t want to be one of those people. The more I learn how to properly interpret Scripture and understand it within the original intent of the author to the original audience, the more God deepens my faith and joy in Him.
From the cowardice that shrinks from new truth,
from the laziness that is content with half truths,
from the arrogance that thinks it knows all truth, oh God of truth, deliver us!
The paradigm shift was terribly frightening, but SO WORTH IT!