When we run across a blue parakeet passage — a blue bird amidst the sparrows — we need to rethink that passage in light of the Story, the overarching, great themes of the Bible. Sometimes we’ll find that the passage immediately makes better sense when we think of it this way. Sometimes, bringing the Story into the analysis is just the beginning of some serious study and wrestling with the text.
We’re not done with our study until we’ve interpreted the passage in such a way that it fits the Story as well as the words of the passage. We just have to work and study and pray until we get there. But there’s plenty of help available from other Christians and from the scholars of today and the past — and the Spirit.
Until you get to the answer, you have to approach the scripture with the greatest of humility. I mean, how dare we impose an interpretation on our brothers that somehow violates the Story or the text itself?
Now, the Story can be broken down into certain strands of thought the permeate God’s thought and actions throughout history.
* As we just studied, the Story begins in Paradise and ends in Paradise. There’s a “redemptive arrow” pointing toward the Eschaton, the End of time, throughout scriptures. And God has been working to get us to Paradise since the Curse.
* God’s covenant with Abraham remains true even today. God is righteous and his righteousness requires that he keep his word — which he did through Jesus and is doing through his church. We are God’s hands on earth to call the nations into his blessings, to bring redemption, and to show the love of God for the needy and helpless.
* Paradise is more about the people than the place. The goal is to bring people back into community with each other and with God — for God to walk among us as he walked with Adam and Eve. And the goal is for our community to be a light to the nations, a light on a hill, a transforming presence, a fellowship of such love for each other and for others that the world begs to come in.
* This all happens through Jesus, the Messiah prophesied of old, sitting on David’s throne as well as the throne of heaven. His resurrection assures us that we, too, will be resurrected and that God has defeated all the powers that stand in his way — and our way.
* Thus, God’s good news is that Jesus is the Messiah, that he really has been resurrected, and that the resurrection is for all who have faith in Jesus and who are faithful to the Messiah (are penitent). The good news is also that God loves us with such intensity that he’ll bring his throne to earth to be with us — the community formed by faith and love. And we’ll spend eternity with each other and with God — and so we’d better learn to get along.
* The command that God gives, which binds all believers, is the command to love — and to love wisely, as God loves, and sacrificially, as Jesus loves. Love draws us into community with each other. Love draws us to worship. Love draws us to service and evangelism. Love brings unity.
* Paradise teaches us how men and women should live in their marriages and how sex (a gift from God) is be enjoyed by God’s people.
And for those of us in the Churches of Christ, here’s the big point —
* It’s not about a bunch of arbitrary rules. Rather, when the scriptures were written, the authors took pains to explain their rationales, when it wasn’t obvious. If we don’t find the answers we want in the scriptures, well, we’re asking the wrong questions.
The question is whether we are conservative enough — confident enough in the sufficiency of the scriptures — to take seriously the Bible’s own hermeneutics.