We need to consider a hermeneutical principle not often taught in our literature.
We often misunderstand God’s words because we misunderstand who he is.
I mean, how often have I been misunderstood by someone — someone who thought I’d said something hateful or insensitive? I always find myself responding that you would not have misunderstood me if only you knew me!
God feels the same way. Words only get us so far. Until we know God better, we’ll inevitably misunderstand him. And the same is true as we try to understand one another.
This is what I understand Patrick to have meant when he said on the video,
What the Bible does is tells me about Jesus; and I don’t read Jesus through Paul. I read Paul through Jesus. And I think the churches of Christ are getting this, that we no longer read all of the Bible as equal.
Obviously, Patrick did not intend to say that somehow Jesus’ words contradict and overrule the words of Paul. If you knew Patrick, you’d know that.
And yet the Internet is filled with venomous attacks on this man of God, as though we could judge him on so little — while making not the least effort to understand him. Indeed, it’s easy to see that many listened only well enough to find a way to attack. This is not love.
You see, I understood him to mean something else — a something else that I easily found in his writings in less than five minutes of searching —
[R]ead the story of Jesus again and again. Get to know his voice. As Hebrews 1 says, Jesus is what God looks like, sounds like, IS like.
The Bible is a finger pointing to Jesus. I love the Bible but I love Whom it points to even more. We are, after all, the Church of Christ – not the church of those other guys.
In other words, to understand Paul, we need to know the Person for whom Paul is an emissary: God. To know God, we need to know his Son, who came to more fully reveal God to us. The Gospels most fully reveal Jesus. Those of us in the Churches of Christ should especially understand how central Jesus is to God’s revelation.
Get to know God, and then you’ll better understand the words of his apostles. And we do this best through Jesus.
This is not heresy. It’s sound hermeneutics. And it’s giving Patrick, a brother in Christ, the benefit of the doubt. And taking the time to understand the man before judging him. It’s loving one another as Jesus first loved us. It’s loving him well enough to listen for the truth in his words, not just to find a way to put him down.
There are many among us who owe him an apology.
(Mat 12:11-13 ESV) 11 He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” 13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other.
To God, a man is more valuable than a sheep. Therefore, if it’s permitted to relieve a sheep of its suffering on a Sabbath, it is that much more permitted to heal a man.
You can only understand God’s laws if you first understand God. After all, there is no rule in the Torah that creates an exception for healing. Jesus found the exception, not in the words of the text, but in the heart of God.
So what is God’s heart for women? How do we find that? How do we with confidence know? Well, we consider all that God has told us through his scriptures, but we consider it in light of the heart of the God of love, who blesses first and asks us to respond in love. And we pay special attention to the Gospels, not because the Gospels are all that God says on the subject, but because the Gospels best help us understand the heart of God.