We recently had a Teen Devo on unlocking the Bible. Much of the inspiration for this Devo was from the book “Misreading Scriptures With Western Eyes” and my personal time of digging into the word.
Disclaimer: It reads more like a college paper than a lesson, but I can assure you they loved the questions and the banter and it wasn’t overly “academic” in real life! We had a lot of fun! 😄
1. Reading the Bible is a Cross- Cultural Experience
- We don’t know the language
- We don’t know the geography
- We don’t know the customs
We bring our own culture to the Bible often rather than trying to figure out what a particular passage meant to the original hearers.
Q: What are things you think are really important for people to know about you before you become friends?
- If I get loud – that doesn’t mean I am angry
- For me getting away from people is personal. – Social creature.
- am an extrovert that also values personal time
- I have some trust issues – I can question people’s motives (not saying it’s okay)
This is why context is so important! How much do we miss out on when we don’t know the backgrounds about each other?
How much do you think we can miss out on when we don’t know the context of the Bible? How many misunderstanding can occur?
16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.
Context: Laodicea didn’t have their own water source. They had to build aqueducts to import hot spring water from Hierapolis and cold water from Colossae. By the time this water reached them it had lost what made it remarkable – it became lukewarm
Message: God wants us to maintain a remarkable faith and discipleship and not lose whatever gifts he has given us that make us remarkable.
Do you see how understanding context can shed a deeper light on the Bible?
2. What Goes Without Being Said
There are things that go without being said in every culture. What are some values of American culture you think go without being said?
- Time is valuable
- If you ain’t first your last
- All about the individual
- Hard work is the greatest of all virtues
Do you think these were the same values as our readers had?
In every culture there are things that go without being said. Example:
When we hear the word “He/she is competitive” we think of that not really as a negative thing. Being competitive is good in a capitalist society, but it is not as highly valued in every society.
Q: What goes without being said in your home?
- Do your homework when you get home from School?
- Go to bed at a certain time?
Why does this matter?
Story: A missionary went to a foreign land and the elders were talking about how a couple wanted to come back to church and how they would help with that process even though they committed an egregious sin.
What was the sin? They ran off together and got married!
This may not seem egregious to you and me, but to this culture the passage about obeying your parents (Ephesians 6:1) is strongly applied to who you marry. What they did was incredibly wrong because what went without being said in this culture is that your parents facilitate your marriage.
We all have customs and values as a part of our culture that go without being said.
I bet none of us think of that passage in terms of obeying them with who we should marry – The reason why is because we bring our western romantic view – it is all about love over all!
3. Example – Woman at the Well
7 A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”
“Give me a drink” – What are our cultural assumptions when we read this?
- Jesus wasn’t polite
- Jesus was mean
- Jesus thinks women are just servants
What went without being said: Hospitality was one of the things that went without being said in Eastern culture – “give me a drink” was a request almost never refused.
- Men did not speak to women in public especially if they were not married or related.
- Jews did not speak to samaritans – samaritans were declared unclean and if you came into contact you would be considered unclean.
- -This Samaritan woman was an outcast in her own town – no one draws water alone and rarely is it done at noon when the sun is the hottest.
Q: How does knowing those three things change how you view Jesus in this passage?
Jesus is giving her the honor of showing him hospitality – this sounds crazy to us – but the way she would have heard this is – “how is that you are paying any attention to me? I am a nobody, my own people don’t even love me and the fact you are asking me to give you water means you- a hot shot rabbi is willing to be considered unclean to speak with me?“
What can we learn from this?
- Jesus had a heart for the marginalized
- Jesus didn’t care what people would say about him
- Jesus had a mission
Knowing the context and what went without being said has taken Jesus from seeming mean and chauvinistic to being incredibly loving and caring. This is why context matters this is why knowing our cultural biases is important.
Without knowing this you can still gain a lot from the Bible – but understanding your cultural assumptions and incorrect lenses will help you get more out of the Bible.
Be slow to judge things that don’t sound right to you in the Bible and remember their easter culture 2000 years ago is much different than our western culture – let’s have respect for their culture if we can do that we can get so much more out of the Bible as we apply it to our own lives.
It’s actually a little deeper – reference to Jacobs Well. Where did Jacob meet his wife? How did he meet his wife?
Genesis 29 – Jacob meets his future wife at a well at the same time!
V20– felt like only a few days because of his love for her.
Jesus is inviting her to have a relationship with Him, but not in the sense she goes about having relationships with men now.
He is to be her new husband – finally the security she always sought has arrived.