One thing that I think is completely lost on our way of thinking is that the Bible was written in an ancient Oriental Culture, not in our modern Western Culture.
Case in point. I've had a computer programmer compare the Bible to and owner's manual or a programmer's manual. This is scary, since there were no computers or owner's manuals back when the Bible was written.
What happens with this view is that it makes the Bible into step-by-step instructions for every detail of life. And certain groups have done this. And have become very legalistic.
One of the best example of this is the huge 'roles' debate going on. Instead of allowing people to walk in their own skin and be the personality God created them into, strict gender roles are taught because of some instructions Paul gave to the Ephesians who lived in a highly patriarchal culture.
Paul never speaks of roles or defines them in any way. He just encourages the people in Ephesus to take on attitudes to help the cause of Christ.
Yet when people read Paul's words, they take them like step-by-step or trouble-shooting instructions.
For example, when a women feels her husband is not treating her right and goes to the pastor for advice, the pastor turns to the "marriage trouble-shooting" section of the Bible and determines that if A.) the wife would just submit, then B.) the husband would shape up and fulfill his portion, as though he were a machine or computer or something. Or the other way around if the husband comes in and complains. He just needs to love more. Because that's all the instructions Ephesians five gives concerning marriage.
This "owner's manual" method of Bible reading has caused tremendous turmoil among Christians. It has broken families and hurt individuals.
Now in case anyone thinks I'm saying we don't have to pay attention to what the Bible says, I'm not. I'm only saying we need to be careful about how we read it.
God is very clear on what His commands are. I still believe in the Top Ten from the Old Testament, better known as the Ten Commandments. I also believe in the Top Two, Jesus gave in the New Testament, better known as the Two Greatest Commandments. Jesus also gives us the Golden Rule which, when coupled with the Top Two, sums up the whole law.
The whole Bible is NOT just one big list of dos and don'ts. It is the story of the fall of the human race, God's work to redeem us, and then God working together with us to let others know of the opportunity to get in on the blessings of God. It's not line after line of rules. All we need to know about treating each other is summed up in the Top Ten, the Top Two, and the Golden Rule.
Guess what I'm trying to say is this. Be careful about making rules, law, parameters where there may not be any. Making rules about hair, dress, or roles from instructions an apostle sent to a certain city, a long time ago, for a certain time may actually undermine the Gospel and the words that Jesus spoke for all times.
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