The paths and ditches of Biblical interpretation

Part 6 of a series

At the July 2012 Mennonite Church Canada Assembly, delegates approved Being a Faithful Church 4 for study. These articles are to stimulate further thought and discussion. For more information, visit www.mennonitechurch.ca and follow the “Being a Faithful Church” links.

January 2, 2013 | God at work in the Church | Number 1

Path #12: Grace and justice for the vulnerable

By Laura Loewen, Being a Faith Church Task Force member

Jesus is portrayed as “consistently interpreting Scripture in reference to, and with regard for the needs/realities of ‘the least’—the most needy and vulnerable (the poor, the sick, the foreigner/outsider, women, social outcasts).” God’s intention through Scripture is to bring wholeness to creation, justice to the orphans and widows, sight and healing to the blind and the lame, reconciliation and salvation to the sinners.

There are many examples given in the gospel writings where Jesus follows a law of grace and justice rather than the legalities of the law as practiced by the Pharisees. For example, healing on the Sabbath was considered as breaking the law (Ex. 20), and yet, Jesus healed a man with a withered hand (Mark 3:1-6), as well as a crippled woman (Luke 13:10f) on the Sabbath. His response when he was criticized for his actions was that observing the Sabbath was not intended to keep us from doing good.

On another occasion a woman, who was caught in adultery, was brought to Jesus as way of entrapping him (John 8). According to the law this woman should have been put to death (Lev. 20:10). In fact, the Scribes and Pharisees quoted this law to Jesus in front of the crowd, but Jesus saw the hypocrisy in this action and challenged those who had not sinned to throw the first stone. Jesus would also have noted that only the woman was brought before him. Where was her partner? To the woman, the person with the least power in that particular setting, Jesus’ challenge was to go and sin no more. Jesus did not condone her action, but neither did he choose to condemn her. He chose the path of grace.

As we discern our responses in difficult relational situations, a good foundational scripture text is the Great Commandment as found in Matthew 22: 37-40 which calls us to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

--Posted Jan. 2, 2013

Others in the series:

Part 1- Being a faithful church: The paths and ditches of biblical interpretation (Oct. 15, 2012 issue)

Part 2- The paths and ditches of biblical interpretation (Oct. 29, 2012 issue)

Part 3- The paths and ditches of biblical interpretation (Nov. 12, 2012 issue)

Part 4- The paths and ditches of biblical interpretation (Nov. 26, 2012 issue)

Part 5- The paths and ditches of biblical interpretation (Dec. 17, 2012)

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