Embracing life to the full… Including questions, challenges, joys and adventures
I think it’s important for you to understand how I read the scriptures and how I make sense of the world around me. I hope that it helps you realize how you read scriptures and understand the world around you as well. It may create some questions; it may raise some skepticism or make you say, “AMEN!”
Professionally, I am a Communication Professor—so one of the things that I study and teach about is how humans communicate. Our text defines human communication as: “The process of creating meaning through symbolic interaction.” (Adler, 2012)
In my class we talk about the inability to communicate well when we fail to share the same symbols. Miscommunication happens when we read, listen to or see the same symbol and interpret it in different ways.
This happens a lot when we read scripture—there are language differences and cultural references that are hard for us to understand.
AND we each read the bible through our own cultural lenses.
Pretend like your ‘list’ is the current prescription in your glasses…
Often our misperceptions lead us to ask the wrong questions of the text and to miss out on the overarching story line that God desires for us to learn. The Pharisees in Jesus’ day struggled with this big time! You and I struggle with this big time!
But, God didn’t leave us alone with the scriptures. He gives us a couple important things…
The Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit is our coach, our counselor, and our guide. The Holy Spirit reveals insights and truths in new and powerful ways that we can’t do on our own. We need to pray and ask the Spirit to help us understand the scriptures we read.
The Body of Christ
The Lord also gifts the body of Christ with people who are wise, prophetic, and are revealed truths to help others understand this new Kingdom way of life more fully. We need to listen, seek out, question and trust others who have these gifts. We need to pray for wisdom and understanding and when we have convictions share them with others in the body.
And the Lord gives us the gift of faith… being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see… the Lord allows for mystery and for not having all of the answers. We need to trust that we might just have to believe on faith without completely knowing if we are “right” or “wrong”.
We need to develop a tolerance for ambiguity.
In order to be a competent communicator, especially in intercultural settings (which is what happens when we read scripture) we need to build a tolerance for ambiguity. A level of holding truths and questions with open palms for God to shape and reshape as we continue to interact with the Living word of God.
Sometimes this is hard.
Sometimes we want to have all of the answers.
Sometimes we have to act even when we aren’t certain.
Sometimes we make mistakes.
Sometimes we rejoice in faith.
MEDIA IMPACTS OUR PERSPECTIVES (at least it does for me)
In my class we talk about how media messages impact individuals’ and societies’ views of the world. Media messages include everything from the written words in books to what we see on television, in magazines, on the radio, etc.
Cultural studies theorists consider how these messages both reflect and shape societies most deeply held values, attitudes and beliefs in many areas. These theorists focus most specifically on the interactions between media and race, class and gender. Very interesting stuff!!
In order to understand how the media impacts our individual lives and society as whole it is helpful for us to understand what messages people have been receiving for centuries as well as the ones that we currently find ourselves receiving and living in. I hope to discuss these together.
HOW WE VIEW OUR SELF IMPACTS OUR PERSPECTIVES
Our self-concept includes how we develop a sense of who we are. Our self-concept influences how we set goals, what our dreams are and how we interact with other people.
A variety of sources contribute to developing our self-concepts. The four main ones I discuss with my students are:
1) What other people say about us and how they treat us
2) Comparison to others
3) Cultural teachings (including religious institutions and media influences among others)
4) How we evaluate ourselves—our own personal thoughts and assessment.
Discussing these impacts is my absolute favorite section in my class and one of the reasons I am writing this blog. You will hear more about how the Lord informs these areas and how difficult it often is to understand ourselves because of all the flawed influences around us.
Lets put this all together… So, media messages, symbolic breakdowns, personal relationships and life experiences all contribute to how we interact with the scriptures. All of these interact to impact our ideas about what it means to be a Daughter or Son of God. All of these interact to impact our ideas of what it means to be a part of the Kingdom of God.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of breakdowns and each of us face these breakdowns in a unique ways—I will call these breakdowns—SIN!
Sin is infectious and often blinds our ability to see TRUTH. Truth is freeing and redeeming. Jesus wants us to be free Luke 4: 18-19…
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
For he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim that the captives will be released,
That the blind will see,
That the oppressed will be set free,
And that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.
Jesus wants to make the blind see—that was a part of his mission on earth.
Jesus wants to set the oppressed free—that was part of his mission on earth.
Jesus calls his followers to be just like him.
Jesus sent his Holy Spirit to help us.
Jesus sent filled many of us together with this Spirit to help each other.
Jesus sent us to help the world around us.
To help us follow Jesus, we need to become more aware of what influences the lenses we use to read the scriptures. We need to receive faith, step out in faith, seek the Holy Spirit, and build connections with the body of Christ to gain a more accurate (God infused) understanding of who we are and how we relate to our culture. We will each do this imperfectly, but that can’t keep us from trying and trusting.
These are the things that influence how I read the scriptures and follow Jesus.
Questions for you:
Do you know what influences you?
Do you buy this way of understanding?
Do you think your perspective is important?
How are you challenged or comforted?