Gain Understanding

Read John 13:1-7

As humans, the scope of our understanding is finite. It is true that with age we gain increased understanding. Yet even at the most advanced age, we are limited. Adults often tell children that right now something may not make sense but with time they will understand. The struggle is often having the patience to wait. This struggle is not only for children but for adults as well.

We witness Jesus telling the disciples that they will have to wait for understanding. In all likelihood this could be applied to all of Jesus’s ministry and teaching while he was alive. Many times the followers struggled to understand. This specific time was at the start of the feast before Passover. By the end of the night the disciples would be even more confused as Jesus is arrested in the Mount of Olives. At the moment in our passage, Jesus has taken the role of the lowliest servant and began to wash the feet of the disciples. Peter begins to protect with a question about Jesus washing his feet. Jesus responds to Peter, and the confusion of all the disciples, by acknowledging that this may not make sense now but with time it will.

As believers there are situations when we witness aspects of life and are confused. Where is the Lord in this situation? How does this connect to the Lord’s purpose? How should I understand this in light of my belief in Jesus Christ? As Peter and the disciples were told on that night, we receive the same instruction from the Lord. Right now we lack understanding but there will be a time when we will understand. The time may be during our earthly life, or it may not be until we have crossed into our spiritual existence. Our challenge is to be patient and trust the Lord to make sense of it all.

Is It In There

One of the areas of confusion among people which I encounter frequently is the number of items individuals accredit to the Bible but are not actually written in Scripture. An example is, “God helps those who help themselves.” This phrase is recorded nowhere in Scripture but instead is a popular statement based on the interpretation of various passages. Some Christians argue that it even stands against the concept of grace which is prominent in our understanding of God. As a line from Kermit the Frog’s song, Rainbow Connection, reminds us, “Somebody thought of it, and somebody believed it, and look what it has done so far.” Unfortunately, because this type of confusion prevails, too often people get a very inaccurate perception of God and God’s expectations.

The Church has unwittingly, or at least I hope it has been unwittingly, propagated this confusion. What I mean is that the Church has established rules which the leadership has determined are beneficial for the well-being of humanity. These rules are based upon the Church’s interpretation of Scripture at a specific time and place within its history. Some of these rules truly are beneficial and should be followed to the best of one’s ability. However, some rules over time have changed as the Church reexamines Scripture and determines a change in interpretation is in order. Since we understand that the Bible is the Living Word, and we know that the Spirit continues to reveal God’s truth in the world, this change of interpretation is in order. Just as science continues to discover new understandings of creation, the Church discovers new understandings of what God’s message was and is now.

The key here is that people take the time and make the effort to differentiate between what is in the Bible and what is a rule that the Church has established because of an interpretation of the Bible. It is also very important to understand the context in which the rule is adopted. The reason that all this is important is because we know that our interpretations of Scripture are not absolute. They are the best understanding of God’s humanly recorded interaction with humanity at a certain time and place. These interpretations give us some insight into the nature of God and how we are to respond to God. Yet as Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and other great reformers of the Church have shown us, these interpretations need to be reviewed, revisited, and reformed.

Next time someone tells you that you should or should not do something because this is what God wants, make sure that you clarify whether it is truly in the Bible or if it is someone’s interpretation of the Bible. The Spirit will guide you in your interpretation at that given moment and your response to God.