Thursday, November 30, 2006

How Much Redemption Can We Stand? (3 of 3)

It is fair to say, I think, that we in the church “are not in the business of legitimising the fallenness of things, but of ushering in the kingdom of God” (or we should be)! What does this mean for our reading of scripture? What we think scripture says should shape how we live and so how we read scripture is very important. We need to employ a hermeneutic that requires us to consider the overall direction of the text’s energy and intent. We need to look for the highest ethic that scripture is pushing toward, rather than legal concessions for our weakness or legislation to keep society (and the church) from getting worse than it already is, in determining what is the best and most ethical way to behave. This distinction between ethics and law is important. Law is never the highest aspiration of a society. Thus, upholding law is not the highest aspiration of the Christian, our highest aspiration is to push beyond the minimum the law requires to the maximum embodiment of love of God and love for neighbour. And this must underlie all our reading of scripture.

So, why am I harping on about this? Most of my observations are probably obvious. Yet, when we begin to consider scripture in this light, we find that scripture may be on a different trajectory than the one we are currently on. What are the implications of this hermeneutic that is based on the trajectory of scripture for “women’s issues” in the church? Is there perhaps, like with slavery, a cultural blinding that has kept us reading texts in a certain manner, not because it is the best way to understand the overall passage and message of the Bible but because this reading is the only one our cultural and historical lenses would allow?

What are the implications of this hermeneutic for our attitudes toward the poor and wealth accumulation? The trajectory of scripture on this issue is a bit different from slavery. Rather than ameliorating the condemnation of those who oppress the orphan, the widow, the alien, and the poor, scripture consistently, loudly and forcefully pursues a message of liberation for the oppressed, roundly condemning those who do not care for the poor and dispossessed. When we think about it, this consistent condemnation is also a very redemptive direction. It is the direction of generosity. It is the direction of loving others as ourselves. What is it to consider the law, the prophets, the teachings of Jesus in this light rather than to write them off as somehow not quite as applicable to us today?

The great irony is, we seem to continue reading scripture from our place of privilege, so sure of what it says that we may very well be missing the heart of the message. How much redemption can we stand as a people? Can we stand to have our societal structures, our churches, our economics redeemed? Or are we content to stop with our individual souls and let it go at that? Are we to be in the business of legitimising the fallenness of things? Or are we to partner with God in bringing about his kingdom?

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