No Woman, No Cry: What does that really mean?

I can’t remember what I did on many Valentines Days before I met Amy. If I were dating or trying to date (as was usually the case) a girl, that relationship rarely, if ever, occurred over a V-day. But I do specifically remember one V-day in college.

Most of us in the dorm were not dating anybody. Hence most of us were in the dorm that night. Being the responsible and shepherd-ly RA (resident advisor), I gathered some freshmen in my room and we all listened/sang along with Bob Marley’s “No Woman, No Cry.” Besides the fact that it might be one of the best songs ever-with a guitar solo voted in the Top 10 of all time-I felt it was apropos.

We had no woman, and we declared to each other, that we would not cry. No woman, no cry. No woman, no big deal. Right?

Well, I found out years later, from a true Bob Marley fan (I just have the greatest hits album), that what the song really communicated was this: Woman, please don’t cry. We had interpreted the song in a manner not intended by the original author; and had championed the song for our purpose.

Bob Marley was not American, but Jamaican. And they talk a little different down there.
So we needed to know something about his language and culture before we could interpret what he was saying. But we also could have simply listened to the words of the song, “Hey little darling, don’t shed no tear.” The context is everything.

Folks often believe something, find A verse or two that backs up that belief, then assume that belief or conviction is taught by the bible. But if we know nothing or little about the context (how that verse fits into the passage, that passage to the book itself, that book itself into the entire bible) or the language and culture from which it came, we can easily err. We might even end up looking like a bunch of college students singing “No woman, No cry” to find comfort, when the song was intended to comfort the ‘opposing party.’

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