By: Chris Faulknor, Publisher
What is context?
Context is something I’m very careful about in my journalism, and something I should be equally careful of in my faith writing.
You see, context is the background information that gives a phrase its meaning.
It’s also something often removed when one is quoting the bible, and something that is very necessary.
For example, a recently popular slogan which I have seen on bumper stickers, shirts, and even a keychain: “Pray for Obama, Psalm 109:8”
Taking things at face value, Psalm 109:8 seems like a very appropriate though for a Christian, especially one leaning to the right to bring onto Obama: “Let his days be few; and let another take his office.”
One might think again, however, once they put it in context with the rest of Psalm 109:
Appoint an evil man to oppose him; let an accuser stand at his right hand. When he is tried, let him be found guilty, and may his prayers condemn him. May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership. May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow. May his children be wandering beggars; may they be driven from their ruined homes. May a creditor seize all he has; may strangers plunder the fruits of his labor. May no one extend kindness to him or take pity on his fatherless children. May his descendants be cut off, their names blotted out from the next generation. May the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the Lord; may the sin of his mother never be blotted out. May their sins always remain before the LORD, that he may cut off the memory of them from the earth.
Now, I’m sure many of the people driving around with these bumper stickers are not suggesting that the “true” meaning be applied to President Obama, but I also don’t think those who advocate the use of this slogan do so in good faith.
Even after being told of the darker context of this verse, people argue that they don’t mean it in that way, so it’s a moot point, right?
What they are basically saying then is that it is “okay” to deliberately promote gross misinterpretations of the Bible, and to ignore the true meaning of the word of God.
So how can we pray for this election and for our President (regardless of who the next one will be)?
How about Psalm 119? “May the word be a lamp for our feet and a light to shine on our path.”
We’re asking for God’s word to guide us as we vote, and asking for his word to guide those in leadership as they perform in their roles.
Here’s another one, especially when you’re considering joining in the particular brand of nastiness that comes with an election.
1 Peter 2:13-16: “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.
For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people.
Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.
Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.”
So what does that mean?
- Our leaders are our leaders, and they are there for a reason.
- Do good and set a good example, and stop those being ignorant.
- Enjoy your freedom, but don’t use it as an excuse for doing bad (or just plain stupid) things.
- Respect everybody, including the politicians you don’t like.
So next time you’re on Facebook and you want to post that disrespectful, unkind meme about your least favorite politician, stop and think.
The next time you’re considering making a cruel joke, especially using the word of God, think about the context and as yourself what you’re trying to accomplish.