Listening Is Good

I started listening to people who were different than I was.[i] 

Think about that statement for a minute. How often do we really listen to people who are different than we are? People who think differently; People who hold differing opinions or theological positions. Do we truly listen to them or do we simply—in our minds—put our fingers in our ears and go “la, la, la, la, la.”

I would suggest, if we’re not willing to listen to people who are different than we are, then we will not be able to listen to the biblical text correctly.

As I’ve mentioned before, often times we come to the Bible expecting it to say what we already believe is true. When it doesn’t, we diligently work to explain why it doesn’t so that we can justify our beliefs.

Many years ago, when in college, I attended a class where the professor said something that was totally different from what I had been taught by my pastor and very different from what I knew the Bible said. I responded immediately. I interrupted his lecture and basically laid down the challenge. “You can’t say that. It’s not true.” When the professor and I talked after class, I disguised my personal conflict as wanting to be a defender of those other poor college kids who would certainly be in peril of losing their faith if they believed what he was teaching. But the real issue was my own faith! He had hit it head on with something that seemed more than plausible when reading the biblical text, but was totally against what I had been taught.

It was at that moment that I began to do some serious thinking. Were my beliefs, my beliefs because I understood it to be what the Bible teaches? Or were my beliefs really someone else’s beliefs that I had adopted hoping it was what the Bible teaches? There’s a huge difference.

Letting the Bible speak on its own terms can be a challenge. It can be hard. We are influenced from several directions by Sunday school teachers, preachers, professors, and commentary writers who say, “This is what the Bible says.” But when we begin reading the text with our eyes open and mind engaged there will be those times when we say, “Wait, that’s not what the text says.”

That doesn’t mean we don’t listen to what they say, it simply means we allow ourselves the privilege to think differently. Not different as in strange and out in left field with our understanding of the text. But different in that we let the text speak on its own terms and then engage in conversation to find out why there are differences.

Listening is good. Listening to the biblical text is a priority. Listening to God’s spirit as it guides us into truth is essential. Listening to those who are different—with different opinions or beliefs is also important. That’s how we learn.

Perhaps they will give us the same courtesy.

 

[i] Quote by Lindsey Trozzo in this blog post;

<http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/2014/08/aha-moments-biblical-scholars-tell-their-stories-14-lindsey-trozzo/?utm_source=SilverpopMailing&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=peterenns_080914UTC030828_daily&utm_content=&spMailingID=46674497&spUserID=OTgzOTIwMDY4MzcS1&spJobID=501122515&spReportId=NTAxMTIyNTE1S0>

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5 Comments

Filed under belief, Bible Study

5 responses to “Listening Is Good

  1. Is it possible that The New Testament is not a factual story, but rather an allegory? And that in reality, the name that the book wants you praise is Judas Iscariot’s? One of a brotherhood of twelve who becomes separated from the others in his group who hated him, this could be the story of the patriarch Jacob’s favorite son, Joseph. Or it could be the story of the world’s most-maligned individual, Judas Iscariot, who awaits to have the evil which his ‘brothers’ have thought to do him, to be turned to good so that many people may be saved alive, just as it happened with Joseph.

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    • Norm

      Interesting perspective. I heard a similar concept years ago but not certain who or where. I suppose, before we ventured down that trail, it would be good to see some “evidence” of your idea. Something in the text that would tell us we’re reading an allegory. Either specific allusions or echoes of Jacob in the Judas story or something similar would be helpful.

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      • In the Gospel of Luke, when Jesus tells his disciples that if they lack a sword, they should sell their cloak and buy one, they respond to him, “Lord, Lord, here are two swords.” This seemingly insignificant passage becomes however, fraught with meaning when it’s recalled that to believers the word of God is likened unto a sword. And so, like the two trees that grew in the middle of the garden of Eden, there are two separate tales being recounted in The New Testament. The first is the literal story of Jesus, which like the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is a way that looks to be correct in the eyes of men, but which leads to death. And accordingly, followers of this story have committed no little mischief and mayhem upon the earth in its name. The second way to read The New Testament is allegorically, and this path is akin to the tree of life, and as of yet, it has inspired no one to commit atrocities in its defense.
        It might help to understand this idea by looking at the story again and forgetting that Jesus is supposed to be a flesh and blood person, but rather imagining him as Salvation itself, even as Jesus, when translated from the Hebrew, Yeshua, means Salvation. Salvation came to save the lost sheep of Israel, who for their part were only too eager to take hold of Salvation, even going so far as to have him surrounded on occasion, only to discover that when the closed in, their man had slipped through their fingers. And so it was that try as they might on their own, it was not until they had the guidance and good offices of one particularly disreputable but most providential figure, that the elders, chief priests, and scribes of Israel , were able to apprehend at last the highly elusive Salvation. And the same holds true today. For just as no one comes to the Father but through Jesus, so no gets to Jesus, without his betrayer. And betrayal, apart from the sense of perfidy that it conveys, also has another meaning, to reveal, often inadvertently, as to betray a secret is to reveal it. And so it may be said that it is Judas who reveals salvation.

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  2. Norm

    Well, your typology and rather surprising take on “salvation” and how that reflects on Judas’ role is interesting. It certainly shows how coming to the biblical text with a preconceived “story” can reveal that story in the text.
    Your observation; “It might help to understand this idea by looking at the story again and forgetting that Jesus is supposed to be a flesh and blood person, but rather imagining him as Salvation itself…” can be turned around. Perhaps coming to the biblical text without this impression that Judas has a role other than the one he fleshed out would show the true nature of the ministry of the Messiah.
    What happened in the garden certainly had a focus but it was not the betrayal of Jesus by Judas, it was the beginning of the final fulfillment of God’s eternal plan. It was God’s timing not Judas’. “The Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of him; but woe to that man through whom the Son of Man is betrayed.” (Mat. 26:24)

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    • It’s like people have real difficulty seeing Judas beyond the role that Christians have assigned to him. By laying such a welter of woes upon Judas, Jesus (the supposed ‘man of sorrows’), has effectively created an even greater man of sorrows, who more aptly fits Isaiah’s description of one ‘who has no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.’ In this light, the Muslim belief that Judas replaced Jesus on the cross would seem to be validated. For if not literally then in a figurative sense, for the last two thousand years, it has been Judas who has been continuously crucified.

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