the third question


when i discuss interpreting scripture with people (i.e. the study of hermeneutics) i summarize what is involved by asking people to consider 3 things whenever they approach what GOD is saying in and through scripture. these questions are:

  1. what did this passage mean to the first people to hear it?
  2. what does this passage mean to a modern reader?
  3. what does this passage mean for me?

the first two questions aren’t really what i want to discuss right now. i will say that they primarily deal with understanding the story that you are reading in scripture. for example, while i have picked peanuts (a story for another time) i have never threshed wheat before. if i am reading the story of gideon it is important for me to understand that it would not be common for someone to thresh wheat in a winepress because that reveals something important concerning gideon and the situation he is in. it is also important for me to understand that there are modern correlations to gideon threshing wheat in a winepress and how i connect with them.

right now i want to mention the third question because i have been running into it a lot recently. the third question “what does this passage mean for me” could be rephrased as “how do i now live in light of this passage?” involving ourselves with GOD word should be an interactive rather than a passive experience. GOD wants to introduce HIS SON to us through scripture and when we meet JESUS, and see WHO HE is, then we have to respond to HIM. how does this passage change me? how does this passage challenge me? how does this passage encourage me in my present circumstances? what does this passage say about my life right now?

the small group study that pam and i are a part of on wednesday nights is presently reading through mark buchanan’s book “your GOD is too safe” (an excellent read that i thoroughly recommend). last night we went through chapters 7 & 8 which are kind of depressing. it kind of left the entire group in a bit of a bummer mood. we agreed with what buchanan wrote and that left us all a little down. at the end of the evening adam h asked “so what do we do with this now?” in other words, this has us all down because we believe it is true so how do we now live in light of what we have just learned. it really was the perfect question.

it is also a question that i feel like is far to often changed to “so what should someone else do with this now?” it often seems that we treat the bible as a list of instructions that other people should be changed by rather than something that we should be changed by. what a crock! first and foremost i am the one who needs to be changed by my interaction with GOD. yes, ever now and then i might be a part of GOD changing others but that has to come out of a great deal of humility which has been developed by GOD constantly transforming me and removing the planks from my own eyes.

encountering GOD through HIS word should be a dangerous experience for us because it is one of the prime ways that GOD builds us into the ones HE knows we can become. construction zones are considered hard hat areas because the work of building something up involves a great deal of risk. asking the third question puts me in construction zone mindset. what needs to be changed? what needs to be removed? what needs to be begun?

my hope is that 2012 is a big third question year for me and everyone in tapestry.

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