Posts Tagged ‘biblical interpretation’

For the New Testament writers, the ‘good news’ is in reality amazing news.

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look. (1 Peter 1:10–12 ESV)

These same writers consider that the long story of intrusive grace has opened a new chapter in their time. The trajectory of this tale—whence it comes, the mysteries it transmits, the grace it continues to reveal—is only in the smallest sense know-able ahead of time. The early daughters and sons of the Jesus movement lived with a continual sense of surprise.

Yet each surprise ‘lined up’ with what had gone before.

The letter we call 1 Peter punctures any assumption that greater beings than we are understand these things comprehensively. Apparently, there is mystery even in the heavenlies.

Indeed, it would seem that human beings—as the special concern of YHWH’s redemptive tenacity—are poised to understand that redemption in a way that greater creatures cannot. Some things are barred even from the gaze of angel eyes.

Or, perhaps it is that the angels are as surprised as we are and along with us as the story unfolds, for they—with their presumed proximity to heavenly counsel—had not known that YHWH would do this … would burnish his glory in just this way … would prove himself this creative, this good, this worthy of praise.

The verb is a strong one: … ‘things into which angels long to look.’

They’ve had enough clues, these angels, to expect the outlandish, the lavish, the most laudable.  They lean forward, expectantly, awaiting the turn of a cosmic page.

But this! This glory, crafted of these sufferings!

Who ever would have thought!



Read Full Post »

Our organs of perception and expression are not meant to function at the same speed.

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. (James 1:19–20 ESV)

Biblical wisdom trains the senses to calibrate their velocities both with reality and with the opportunity to construct community.

Hearing is meant to spring purposefully towards opportunity. Quick out of the blocks, sustaining a sprint, rounding the corner for a lap even faster than the last one.

Listen quickly, listen long, listen often, wisdom would tell us. Be quick about it. Time’s a’wastin’.

Yet speech ought to take its time. Talk needs to meander slowly down the street, pause often to distract itself with the goings on, creep towards its moment. If it never gets to the end of the block, little is lost. If our power of speech feels unappreciated, well, let it learn to enjoy the occasional time-out.

And then there’s anger. Not exactly an expressive capacity, it is the fast-acting venom the poisons in direct proportion to its velocity. Let it stall, stumble, stand idly in self-forgetfulness. The less that is seen of anger, the better.

Critically, the anger of man does not produce the righteous of God.

Anger gets itself up into a bother, comes quickly to feel righteously indignant, makes all sorts of unnecessary speeches. Enough already. Slow the thing down before it hurts somebody. God is rarely in the anger. He lives elsewhere, with rare exceptions.

Hurry up to hear. Slow down the tongue-wagging. Make anger a tortoise.

Know your speeds.


Read Full Post »

Ambition is not intrinsically unholy.

One may grant that human motivations are ever and always complex. Still, the apostle Paul recognizes that those who aspire to the task of shepherding and governing a community of Jesus-followers turns his ambition towards a worthy objective.

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. (1 Timothy 3:1 ESV)

Immediately, he launches into a formidable list of qualifications that would intimidate any eyes-open aspirant.

The bar is set high, because the life and health of the community is in play.

Yet Paul will not discourage ambition that is holy or even—given the aforementioned complexity—mostly holy.

He simply insists that the aspirant prove his credentials.

We do well in our time to pursue this same delicate balance. We rightly require that the community of Jesus be tended and shaped by people in whom the presence of Christ’s Spirit is without much trouble detectable. We immerse such folks in a realistic view of what will be required of them if they are to begin, and what discouragement and tears will fall upon them before they have finished.

Then we unleash them to the task, wishing for them that their assigned path had been a more level one, and quietly breathing our prayer that theirs will be remembered as lives in which love and faithfulness met together, righteousness and peace enjoyed a decades-long kiss.

For when fields are white unto harvest, workers are much sought after. The best of them are precious and few.

Read Full Post »

Human personality is a garden to be tended.

It requires persistent weeding, seeding and overseeing, all the mundane and patient labors that stand unseen behind a riot of color.

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:31–32 NIV)

For most of us, there is no easy path to the temperament and conduct that reflect a Creator’s and Savior’s presence within and make us worth remembering. (more…)

Read Full Post »

To tell the truth is often difficult and occasionally excruciating. People of good will do not love the ‘hard conversations’ that life thrusts upon us. Rather, we endure them. We sometimes abhor the anticipation of them, frequently tremble through them, and with some regularity second-guess our execution of them. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Early or instant wealth lies heavily on the shoulders of those who acquire it.

Something venomous lurks in abundance without labor, status unearned, riches without long-sown tears.

An estate quickly acquired in the beginning will not be blessed in the end. (Proverbs 20:21 NRSV)

It is unclear whether the Proverbialist’s words ‘quickly acquired’ suggest an inheritance too hotly pursued by a young man who should have remained content to wait or, alternatively, fortune that simply falls unexpected upon its recipient. Odds favor the latter, for this interpretation does not require more precision than the words themselves offer up. (more…)

Read Full Post »

You could call the apostle Paul mad, but you cannot call him soft.

Paul’s understanding of his life’s purpose prioritizes struggle. Not for Paul the vague notion that ‘I know that I am doing what God wants because I have peace.’ One wonders whether he would scoff at such palaver, roll his eyes, or simply move kindly and firmly to correct the person who speaks it. (more…)

Read Full Post »

None of us is a viable candidate.

I recently heard a man with a track record for diligence and quiet composure dismissed as a candidate for promotion as ‘not a viable candidate’. His critic may or may not have been clear-eyed about his verdict, but the words have lingered in my soul.

It strikes me that, when evaluated as candidates for kudos in this world and the next, each of us could be summarily dismissed with that same condemning sentence: not a viable candidate. (more…)

Read Full Post »

The Bible’s Old Testament hints subtly in the direction of incarnation. Just one example: there may be no straight line between the book called Isaiah’s depiction of YHWH speaking in the dialect a responsive servant—’Behold, here I am!’—and the New Testament’s delineation of the risen Christ who at one time ‘took the form of a servant’. But between these two points lies at the least a winding path.

The Hebrew Bible’s occasionally daring portrayals of YHWH as a humble figure can take the slow reader’s breath away. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Having just finished rereading the New Testament’s Acts of the Apostles, it strikes me that the apostle Paul was supremely ‘confident in the gospel’ of Jesus Christ. His own words, in another place, say so.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’ (Romans 1:16–17 ESV)

It strikes me that there is not one way for a Christian to be ‘ashamed of the gospel’, but rather many. (more…)

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »