Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
Considering the nature of Christianity, there are bound to be problems. I mean, you take a scumbag off the street, tell them that through Jesus they can go to heaven (and experience a new life in the Lord) and then expect them to magically fit in with the rest of the body of Christ. I’m sure that’s why most churches offer new member training in order to catch folks up a bit. However, even if a church usually bases everything around the red letters in their Bibles, there’s a lesson from the Law that all church-goers- new and old- need to review. That lesson: Don’t be a jerk.
In Leviticus there is a set of laws that highlight how a child of God should behave. We read,
Do not steal.
Do not lie.
Do not deceive one another (Leviticus 19:11).
Who knew the Old Testament could be so straightforward? The first command is to not steal, yes, this is in the Ten Commandments, but it’s important enough to the Lord that he also filed it here in Leviticus 19. Next we’re told not to lie. Take note here that God is so serious about this command that he immediately repeats it with “Do not deceive one another.” Yeah, just in case you try to pull that, “Well it’s not lying, I’m just not telling what the truth really is” crap, God makes sure to shut it down here. Honestly, I think a big cause of bad church experiences comes from people being deceptive. God loves honesty, so be transparent and honest with each other. Church is where people are supposed to care about each other, so there’s no need to walk around with a fake face amongst believers.
The lesson is not over though. The Lord continues with more regulations for believers to adhere to,
Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but fear your God. I am the Lord.
Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.
Do not go about spreading slander among your people (Leviticus 19:14-16).
In short form: Don’t be a jerk. When I was reading through Leviticus, this is how the Holy Spirit highlighted the whole passage. I read this and although it seems basic, we need to make sure we check ourselves. Remember: church is for everyone; therefore we’re called to be kind to everyone- not just the people we like/ are friends with. Paul tells us in Romans 12:18, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” I love how Paul phrases his sentence. He says, if it is possible; which inspires our inner dark side to say, “Oh, well so-and-so is jerk so-” and then he continues, “as far as it depends on you.” Meaning that it really doesn’t matter how bad someone else is, being friendly is your responsibility and the Lord is holding you to it. The Word is very clear that within the church there should be no fighting, even if someone is clearly in the wrong. Paul writes to the church in Corinth,
The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers (1 Corinthians 6:7-8).
This kind of command goes directly against human nature- which means it’s extra important for a believer in Christ to follow. When someone wrongs us, we’re called not to fight back or even to emulate what they got away with in the future. No, we’re called to take it, suck it up, and keep going in the Lord. Not lowering ourselves to such a level. Rather, what does Jesus tell us? Check it out,
You have heard that it was said, “Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.” But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you (Matthew 5:38-42).
As children of God, we’re called to be on the losing end of earthly matters. However, the Lord will see us in this, and will bless our walk so that we will be the winners in the long run. Even if this sort of thing is happening in your church, just take it. The person who’s wronging you and others will be outed for what he or she is when the time comes. Back on to the list: the Lord also notes that we shouldn’t be gossiping. Gossip is probably one of the number one causes of problems and bad experiences at church. Women gossip about how sinful everyone is and the men gossip about how poor the leadership is. Don’t gossip, and if your friend is a gossip: find new friends. For Proverbs 20:19 tells us, “A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much.” This isn’t a new problem in the church, even in the first generation there were tons of gossips. Again, it’s something that comes with human nature, we like to gossip. However, as followers of Christ we’re supposed to shy away from such things. Paul put it this way when he wrote to Timothy:
Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful (2 Timothy 2:23-24).
Toucan Sam tells us to, “Follow your nose.” But Jesus says to stay out of it when a fellow follower has something juicy to tell you. Remember, as believers in Christ, we’re all on the same team- even if you don’t like who you’re teamed with, you suck it up and do your best for the Kingdom of God.
As Christians, we are called to live differently that the rest of the world. It was because the first and second generation Christians acted differently than the rest of the Roman world that they left such an indelible mark on Europe, and caused the rise of the church. The Lord continues our lesson by telling us,
Do not hate your brother in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in his guilt.
Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord (Leviticus 19:17-18).
Now, in this section we see that the Law advises us to rebuke our yokefellow when they are in the wrong. This is backed up by Jesus as well, “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you” (Matthew 18:15). If someone wrongs you, you’re called to take it- but also to make sure you tell the person that what they’ve done is wrong. However, you are to do this privately. Beyond that Jesus tells you to hold an intervention (which is for a person with a well-known problem). Ok, now that we’ve covered that, let’s focus on the meat. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The Bible notes that this is one of the greatest commandments. We read,
One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments (Matthew 22:35-40).
This is the key to the Christian walk. You should love others as you have been loved by God, and as you would like to be loved by others. Now this is why I love this set of commands. You see, all of us are probably living in sin even today; therefore nobody is better than anyone else. Why am I confident in saying that? Check out the next verse,
Keep my decrees.
Do not mate different kinds of animals.
Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed.
Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material (Leviticus 19:19).
I love how God knocks everyone down to the same level. First he says, “Keep my decrees.” This means if you break the Law you’re double sinning. This is a preview of what James would later say, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it” (James 2:10). Now as far as mating and planting, most of us don’t have to worry about that. But I love this last command: “Do not wear clothing with two different materials.” Very rarely will we still find clothes that are truly 100% anything. So guess what, we’re all still recovering sinners in God’s house. So you, Christian, have nothing over anyone else- new believer or veteran in Christ. Rather, we’re all equally dependent upon the mercy of Christ and his atoning death on a cross. Remember that next time you feel incensed about someone else in the church. I know all this seems basic, but make sure you check yourself; because it’s very easy to slip up and get all “fleshy” when we’re not paying attention.