As many of you may or may not know, I graduated from a Bible college this past April. One thing that was drilled into our heads was that we have to know the context of a verse or passage before we quote it, use it in a sermon, or even reference it in speaking to people. Without the context, the verse or passage can look and mean something completely different to different people depending on their experiences, perceptions, thoughts, etc. and can be used for something completely opposite of what the verse or passage was originally intended. Don’t worry; this isn’t a rant on biblical interpretations.
Instead, this is a “rant” about formulating opinions about people in relation to knowing the context of people’s lives. What is said about biblical interpretation can also be said of interpreting people. “Interpreting” is merely a euphemism for judging. So often, we make hasty judgments of people based on isolated incidents or maybe even a number of isolated incidents pieced together to form our “accurate” judgment or opinion of someone. But we can’t just base our ideas of people based on what they do. People are a composite of their experiences. So, we can look at a girl who wears revealing clothing and is throwing herself at guys and call her a slut. I mean, look at all the “evidence.” But when we look closer, we see that these are simply verses. We need to know the context. When we get to know her story, we realize that, oh, she was raped when she was young. And, oh, because of the damage that was done, the only way she can feel loved and accepted by guys is by throwing herself at them and wearing revealing clothing. Does it make what she’s doing right? Absolutely not. But what this does is it brings precision to how we will approach her. It brings precision to how we can love her in a way that she feels accepted and knows that she is worth more than what she believes she is worth.
Another example. We can look at an annoying kid and write him off as just that. An annoying kid who is just super needy, selfish, attention-seeking, mean, and just a brat. But when we look at the context we see that, oh, his older brother has severe autism and has the mental capacity of an infant. And, oh, he doesn’t get attention from his parents since they’re so busy with his brother, and so the only way he can get attention is by being that annoying kid. Because even if he’s getting negative attention by getting in trouble, at least people are paying attention to him. Again, does this make what he’s doing right? Not at all. But now that we know the context of his life, we can meet his needs and it, again, brings precision to our love of that kid who just wants to be valued and accepted. Just like the rest of us.
Am I saying that every annoying kid probably has a brother with a disability and that every girl who dresses provocatively was raped when she was younger? Of course not. But what I am saying is that people have a lot more going on, or have a lot more that they’ve been through than we can ever imagine or that we may ever think. So, before we formulate opinions about people, we have to know the context of their lives.