People filter what they hear through different strainers. Of course, I suspect some people don’t filter what they hear at all. Either way, miscommunication and poor theology is a real risk not just for one but for many.
Whenever I sit in a Sunday School class or Bible Study group, I listen to the words people use and wonder to myself, “Do those words mean the same thing to them that they mean to me?” Many times when I hear the word baptize or baptism, it often seems to equate to “salvation” when couched in the context of the conversation. Or, someone will state a belief which everyone seems to agree with, then minutes later another person will state an opposite conclusion which, again, everyone seems to agree with. Here’s an example: In a recent study group one person observed that Jesus struggled with going to the cross and did so by choice in order to agree with the Father’s will. Minutes later, another person commented that from the beginning of Genesis the cross was in view – it was God’s plan and Jesus had no choice. From what I observed many in the class were nodding in agreement with both observations. But how can that be? Did they not hear what I heard?
In a different group my wife and I attended, the facilitator shared an experience about tithing. To make a long story short, here is a summary of his observation – If he had not sent in his tithe before leaving for a trip to visit family, then he would have faced unexpected and substantial expenses do to a series of unforeseen circumstances. Expenses which were otherwise forgiven. It was much akin to the old “gotcha” theme. In other words, if he had waited to pay his weekly tithe until after his trip God would have worked it so that he would have had to pay those unexpected and substantial expenses. That is, God was going to get his/His money one way or the other. As I suspected, the group nodded in agreement with his theology of tithing. Did they not hear what I heard? Do we really serve a God who seeks immediate retribution when we don’t pay up on the sabbath’s schedule?
The English language is not as easy as it might appear on the surface. Add to it’s rather complex nature the idea of “theology” and individual belief systems and it’s ripe for chaos of the largest order.
It appears that the main requirement for entry into the Kingdom was “belief” in the Christ (Jn 1:12). However, when falling under the influence of the English language, multiple Bible translations and theologies from a variety of belief systems, that idea of “belief” gets extremely complicated. Faith, confession, endurance, following, obedience and the like get mixed in the equation – rightly so or not. Add to that the common language of “accepting Christ as Savior” and things tilt significantly.
We are all free to think and speak our beliefs whether they are biblically correct or not. We are also free to voice those beliefs in a group. However, it seems to me imperative, that clarification of terms and jargon is essential to everyone finding their way on to the same page and thus having the opportunity to agree, disagree, discuss or seek clarification. That’s when hearing leads to understanding and understanding leads to a deeper faith.