Our guest preacher this morning used the phrase, “Perception is reality.” This is not the first time I have heard this, but I started me thinking about the pros and cons of this idea as applied to the interpretation of scripture.
On the negative side, the comment challenges the way that we read the Bible. As 21st century readers, we need to take care in imposing our own perspective on the Scriptures. It is too easy to make Jesus and His disciples modern, rational Americans like us.
For example, I pointed out to the Sunday School class I was teaching earlier this month that “Jesus was not a Christian.” (I might also point out that John the Baptizer was not a Baptist but that is another topic.) When Jesus taught and interacted with first century folks, he was not the spokesman for the Christian church and he was unencumbered by twenty centuries of Christian history. Jesus was a Jew, speaking into and out of a Jewish context. We are really not familiar with the richness and complexity of that context. If we were, we would find many of Jesus’ teachings very dangerous, provocative, and risky. He certainly was not one to play it safe.
On the positive side, the Bible has implications for our lives today, and we are right to bring our own life issues to that consideration. Another part of the worship was a solo entitled “Some Children See Him.” The text of the piece points out that children tend to see the Christ child from their own point of view. If they are black, they see Him as black. If they are yellow, they see Him as yellow.
Is that not part of the inspiration of Scripture? As we bring our own life experiences to the study of the Bible, we open ourselves up to applications that shatter our preconceived ideas and stereotypes. We identify with His teachings and actions, thus informing the way that we live out the biblical message.
Certainly this is a paradox—we need to be both objective and subjective in our study of the Bible . . . but God becoming human is also a paradox.