Have you ever listened to what someone said, and reacted to that statement… without thinking of the whole story… without thinking of the overall context of that statement? Of course you have. Our society lives and dies by this mistake daily. The two most common mistakes in this category are this. We either take the words to be too specific or literal (like the picture above) or we think of the statement alone without considering the “rest of the story” (as Paul Harvey would say).
A common place this error occurs is in marriage, and I’ll pick on myself as the example. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my wife loves me deeply. Yet there are times where I am hurt or frustrated by something she says or does. And when I don’t keep in mind the full picture of our two decades together… when I don’t keep in mind my knowledge of her love for me… when I only hear the one sentence spoken at that moment… it can be easy to interpret an ill intention behind that sentence.
On the few occasions I manage to remember the full story, I handle my response to those statements or actions much better. But on the more common occasion where I forget the history… it’s easy for me to misinterpret and make the situation worse.
Why do I share this? Because every once in a while I read a statement or verse in the Bible that on its own… can seem quite confusing. For example, there is this one situation where a disciple of Jesus says something that seems quite rational to you and I, but Jesus’ response seems so bizarre (on the surface).
“Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”” (Matt 8:21-22)
WHAT? Our human reaction to such a statement (if we forget that God, and therefore Jesus, is perfect love) can easily be one of shock and surprise. Why would Jesus respond in such a manner? What is wrong with letting this poor guy bury his dead father and then following Jesus?
Although I will provide a short explanation of this statement, that is not the point of this post. The point is to apply this example of research, analysis and full picture thinking with everything we read in the Bible (and with all of our relationships).
So what did Jesus mean? The most widely accepted view takes an understanding of what the disciple actually meant in his statement. In that time, the phrase of “let me bury my father” did not refer to an actual funeral. It meant let me tend to my father until he dies (which could mean years). But even this is only half of the answer, since it would still seem right to let a man care for his ailing father before setting off on a journey with this Rabbi. But the rest of the answer lies with the heart of following Christ.
Too many of us plan to follow Christ just as soon as ______ (fill in your own blank). Jesus was telling this man that following Jesus meant that some of our earthly plans would have to be moved to the back burner in order to follow Him.
As you read the Bible (and more importantly, Jesus’ words) there’s no doubt you will come across some statement that just don’t sit right in your heart. By all means, don’t take those statements in a vacuum. Analyze them in the same light that Jesus IS love. Keep the FULL picture of Christ in mind with attempting to understand what He said in one statement or another.