Every now and then, we will have a bag of Dove Special Dark Chocolate Squares in the fridge to share – the gluten-free ones with the quotes printed in the foil wrappers.
“Keep the promises you make to yourself.” I read aloud as I threw away the wrapper. (The chocolate was in my hand at the time.)
“Aw … Isn’t that a nice thing to say!” Came a voice from the other side of the room.
“That isn’t how I’d have interpreted it.” I thought to myself as I had already begun to chew the chocolate. Two possibilities occurred to me:
“Keep the promises you make to yourself.” It could mean: “Tell no one that you have made and kept your promises.”
“Keep the promises you make to yourself.” It could mean: “You don’t have to keep promises made to anyone else.”
We are two people from the same family who have lived in the same area and attend the same churches, how is it possible that one of us would distill a positive message and the other a negative message from the same source?
How much more likely is it that a roomful of Christians from all walks of life would get all sorts of different meanings from a sermon? Yet in so many churches, the programs, the books, the lessons, the small groups, the teachings are all designed to narrow down one’s thinking to the one approved meaning and message – all of the others are somehow wrong or miss the mark.
Jesus constantly got on the nerves of the Pharisees, Saducees, Scribes, and other Teachers of the Law because he had a way of reinterpreting scripture that did not align with their pre-approved teachings. Their teachings had been discussed and debated, considered and reconsidered, interpreted over and over again so that they would be just right – they would honor the Letter of the law to honor the Spirit of the law. They even created commentaries and deduced another set of laws deduced from the law – all of them were equally important. But Jesus rejected it.
I wonder, would He do the same today here and now? Would he gather our commentaries, our debates, our discussion, our small groups materials and praise us for our attention to detail or point out that the Spirit of the (New Testament) law was to be people who made a difference, who loved with no strings attached, who helped with no expectation of a return on their investment, who reached out to and helped up those who were left out.
Some will say that just as God never changes, Jesus never once changed his message. Jesus did change his methods. He didn’t always heal or cure the exact same way. He didn’t always used the exact same parable. He didn’t always use the same opening line. He knew which parables were the best ones to deliver to which crowds. He also had an ability to know what others were thinking (which gave him a tendency to say exactly the right thing to the right person at the right time), which is something that the rest of Christianity cannot do (by now we’re a professional foot-in-mouth sort of faith).
It’s time like these – when we have so many teachers telling us how to think and what not to think. When we have so many people fleeing Christianity because of offenses great and small. When we have lost sight of the original message from our original savior that I really wish He was here. That we could just sit down and have a conversation; What does this verse mean? How am I to live it out here and now, some two-thousand years later in America? How am I to treat people around me? Is change okay?