Applying Communal Passages Today

How do we apply passages to a community to us today? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

One of my friends read my blog on Friday and asked about how some matters apply. If something only applies to the audience at the time, how do we work it out in our own lives? This is a good question and one that relies on our hermeneutic.

In John 13, Jesus says that since He washed the feet of His disciples, they ought to wash one another’s feet. However, when I arrived at church yesterday, I found no one there to wash my feet. Not only that, it never occurred to me that I should. Today, a visitor at a church would find it bizarre if he was told to take off his shoes and socks so someone could wash his feet.

In the days of Jesus, this made sense since people walked on dusty roads and didn’t have socks and their feet would get dirty. For us, it’s different. What could we do instead? We can supply people with a breakfast meal waiting for them at the church. If we want to get as close as possible, maybe even set up a car washing place for them or give first time visitors a coupon to a local car wash. The idea at root is hospitality.

A few places in the New Testament encourage us to greet one another with a holy kiss, a passage which many a teenage boy would like to take literally. Not just them. I used to remind my wife of that passage in greeting time at church when it took place. Never worked. However, the message is again to greet and this time, it is done more often with a handshake. Of course, there are cultures where a kiss is acceptable and that can take place.

Let’s consider the passages discussed last time. What about Philippians 1:6. He who began a good work in you will carry it to completion? That means the church should take confidence that God is at work in them and He will see through to the end what He desires. The church can take comfort in knowing God doesn’t just start something and then change His mind.

This can then relate to 2:12-13. Why do you work our salvation with fear and trembling? Because God is at work in you. This means the church should be actively involved not just in the salvation of the lost, but that of their own church members. This can be done with accountability programs and other such ideas. As a Protestant, I do think our Catholic and Orthodox friends are right with the idea of having a priest to confess your sins to, not because the priest can forgive you of your sins as God does that, but because that helps build up accountability. Are you going to be more prone to do XYZ if you know you have to face a real human being who you hopefully respect and tell them about it?

Let’s finally consider one that is really misused. How many graduation cards have Jeremiah 29:11 on them? God knows the plans He has for you after all. He wants to make you prosper. Most people ignore that that’s said to Israel in the Babylonian exile and the majority of them would die in Babylon.

Does that mean it’s useless to us today? Not at all. We can say “God was faithful to the covenant He made with Israel even when Israel sinned, therefore, we can be sure God will be faithful to us in the covenant He made with us.” Not only do we get a good usage out of the passage, the passage rightfully then returns its emphasis not to the recipients, but rather to the person of God who is behind it.

Ultimately, in each passage, find the principle that is being taught. The principle is what needs to be followed. The method might be different in fulfilling it, but the heart should be the same.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

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