Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
Most of us would like to be wise; to make the right decisions at important times and to understand what this life is all about. Some people spend their whole lives devoted to the cause of gaining wisdom and knowledge. As believers, I think most of us would agree that Jesus was a pretty wise dude. Where did he get his wisdom from? The Holy Spirit took me on a journey through the Bible to understand the wisdom of Jesus. The first thing we need to take note of is that Jesus was himself the embodiment of the Word of God. John notes this when he writes, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). As such, this means that we can find Jesus’ wisdom within the pages of our Bible, the Word of God in printed form.
Our first stop should of course be the ultimate in wisdom literature, the book of Proverbs as written by King Solomon. He writes,
My son, do not forget my teaching,
But keep my commands in your heart,
For they will prolong your life many years
And bring you prosperity (Proverbs 3:1-2).
Alright, it’s time for a dose of wisdom from the master (Solomon was one of those guys who spent his whole life in the pursuit of knowledge and understanding). So what is this great teaching that he has prepared to prolong our lives and bring us prosperity? He continues,
Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
Bind them around your neck,
Write them on the tablet of your heart.
Then you will win favor and a good name
In the sight of God and man (Proverbs 3:3-4).
Love. That’s it. Now, this is noteworthy, because as it turns out, this is exactly the same teaching that Jesus gave to his disciples. Our Lord taught, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35). This in turn is exactly the same teaching that the apostles taught after Jesus ascended into heaven. John writes,
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: he sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us (1 John 4:7-12).
So, as it turns out, if you want to be wise you must learn to love.
The Christian walk is a walk of love. If you do not love, you’re probably doing something wrong and need to rethink your faith and your way of life. When asked on what was the most important command from the Law, we find recorded,
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:29-31).
Above all we’re called to love God, and then through that love we are to love others. Following Jesus is following in love, it is acting in love, and it is living in love. Now, don’t get things wrong, you are supposed to hate evil. It is written, after all, “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9). We are to hate evil. We are also told not to associate with sinful people; for it is written,
Blessed is the man
Who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
Or stand in the way of sinners
Or sit in the seat of mockers (Psalms 1:1).
However, we should not be confused, we are not called to hate sinful people or lash out at them, even when they are in the wrong. There are people out there who break the laws of God, in many ways, but as followers of Christ we are called to love those people (but of course hate the sin that entangles them). For Solomon once said, “Hatred stirs up dissension, but lover covers over all wrong” (Proverbs 10:12). Hatred towards sinful people will get you nowhere. Let’s see a practical example of this. Jesus had a bad reputation during his ministry for always eating with sinful people. History records in Matthew 9:10-11,
While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”
Jesus wouldn’t let this question stand though,
On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners (Matthew 9:12-13).
Although Jesus’ friends were not sinners, he did talk with sinful people and try to share the love of God with them in order to bring them into the kingdom of heaven. He didn’t judge them, he loved them, just as God loved us and sent Jesus to die for us; for the Bible records, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
As the followers of Christ, we are called to be the light of the world. Jesus said,
You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16).
We should light up the world with our love towards others through our love of God. In this way, rather than condemn sinners, we should outshine them with God’s grace and goodness. This is echoed by Peter who wrote, “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us” (1Peter 2:12). When we shine with love in our lives, evil doesn’t know what to do. It confuses the sin in people and upsets their sinful lives; for the Bible says, “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it” (John 1:5). Darkness, idolatry, and sin lose their power in the face of Christ’s love. No amount of hate speech, angry signs, boycotts, or unpleasant words will ever do what the love of Jesus Christ can do in the lives of sinful people and unbelievers. This is why Paul could write, “Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away” (1 Corinthians 13:8). Love never fails, it is the greatest power given by God to men. Love never fails.
According to the Bible, the three great pillars of a believer are faith, hope, and love; for it is written, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). The greatest part of our belief is love, according to the Bible. What was the heart of Jesus’ wisdom? It was the Word of God. And what is the overarching message of the Word of God? Love. Jesus said, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:12). Paul explained this further when he wrote,
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:8-10).
The Laws of God, all the ‘do’s and ‘do not’s all center upon this one idea, love. Actually, it is written, “The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Galatians 5:14). Hate sin, but love people, all people, even the people who do awful things. And don’t just love them with your mouth, love them in your heart, hope they find their way to Christ and into heaven. Take the people that every fiber of your being tells you to hate and pray for them; for Christ compels us to do so:
But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matthew 5:44-45).
It’s not easy to pray for your enemies at first, but I know from experience that it opens the way for God to work in your heart and in your life. In fact, we’re even called to love others to our own detriment, for it is written, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1-2). And so that is all that is left. The wisdom of Jesus Christ? Love. If you want to be smart, wise, knowledgeable or however you want to say it, start with love; love for God and love for others. That’s the heart of it all. Walk with love and you’ll be walking with the wisdom of Christ Jesus.