On Sunday I got to watch a rare Bucs victory (though they have 3 of them so far, there won’t be any more on TV I’m thinking), that was set up in large part by Safety Sabbi Piscitelli. Outside his interception, he played horribly, as usual. When he caught the ball, I told Connar, “That’s the BAD safety!” Connar responded, with “mean guy.” For Connar, bad is ONLY a moral category.
Then we’re outside playing baseball and he’s running around the invisible bases and I’m telling him to “touch” the sidewalk chalked home plate. So instead of running over and stepping on home plate, he actually touched it with his hands. “Touch” ONLY means using your hands for Connar.
In reality, you can “touch” home plate with your foot and a player can be “bad” but still be a good guy or decent human being.
I think we can learn something from Connar in regards to scripture interpretation and application. The writers of scripture can use the same words with different meanings just like I did with Connar. For instance Jesus and James can say “Don’t judge others/neighbors (Matthew 7/James 4), while Paul can say we need to judge those “inside the church” (I Cor 5:12).
Those are clearly two different situations, and two different contexts, and so there will be different applications. We can’t go Oprah Winfrey and say “swinging” (again a different meaning than baseball!) isn’t wrong, but we also have to examine our hearts when we do notice Christians who are not walking with the Lord. In some ways we judge (discern and shepherd them), in some way we don’t (look down upon ungraciously).
My good friend and colleague Randy Greenwald, got me thinking about how pastors/theologians regularly fall into the same trap when disagreeing or arguing against the use of terms like missional and in-carnational. There have even been articles by theologians arguing against such terms. Really? Is this really necessary?
Isn’t it good to live with Jesus commission in mind wherever you are and to live among those who need Him? Isn’t that what He did? Who cares what term there is?
Two up and coming young famous pastors are actually working on a book together to define terms so that they can “rescue” such good terms and place them into what they deem the correct categories.
I think folks which are much smarter than I are reacting more like my 2 year old than like the brilliant godly men which they actually are. Context, and how the term is actually being applied is far more important than simply trying to nail down a one-size-fits-all definition. It will sell books for sure, but let us not forget that language is just much more fluid than that. We know that from simply using it!