Fascination with Interpretation
“You’re constantly interpreting your world…You are an incessant interpreter. That is a significant and important function. You never leave your life alone.” — Paul Tripp
How true is that...In an introduction to a message on Jonah, Paul Tripp has a great insight into how we process every day events. We are interpreting the events that take place in our lives through a lens, always influenced by internal and external forces, worldviews, and hopefully Scripture. As we follow Christ, we interpret what happens in our lives through the lens of God’s promises toward us in Christ. When difficulties come, we interpret the events through God’s enduring love and faithfulness. When we sin, we respond with confession and a repentant faith, trusting in God’s Word telling us there’s no condemnation for those who have placed their faith in the Messiah.
If we look around, we see interpretation happening everywhere. Good Morning America is helping us interpret our world as we get ready for the day. SportsCenter is helping us interpret what happens in the sports world. The View is interpreting events through a secular humanist worldview constantly, and it's devoured by our friends, family, neighbors, coworkers, et al. All of these shows make value statements, define right and wrong, and shape worldviews whether they know it or not. They can't help but editorialize under a thin veil of objectivity. Statements are made, off-the-cuff comments submitted, all steming from underlying beliefts that rarely align with Scriptural truth.
There is a cycle to how we interpret our world, both on a macro and micro scale. Understanding this is huge for discipleship, pastoral care/counseling, and evangelism. This cycle entails both belief and action working together, and they cannot be taken apart. Our beliefs lead to action, oftentimes producing a result. That result either reinforces the belief or challenges it, resulting in continued or changed actions.
When I went to college, a small liberal arts school in Iowa, my parents told me to have an open mind. They wanted me to experience different worldviews and, basically, interpret them on my own, coming to whatever conclusion seemed best. Being that my parents are very conservative, that may shock people on the other side of the aisle but that's a completely different post altogether! I entered my collegiate career as a blank slate. But, in many ways, I also entered it with an underlying worldview that my experiences in college either reinforced or challenged. Even when challenged, a choice was consciously (or even subconsciously) made regarding whether or not a given worldview or idea was worth my beliefs, and in turn, my actions. I left school even more confident in my worldview than when I left, much to my parents relief I'm sure.
Then I heard the gospel. The message of Christ and him crucified completely demolished how I saw myself and how I saw the world. Many of the components of my worldview fostered by my parents, challenged in college, and reinforced over time remained, but only because they came from a Judeo-Christian background. However, the components of my worldview that remained were given context and perspective which resulted in a deeper understanding of who this God I was now worshiping was and is. The point being that how I interpreted just about everything changed or was reinforced, and even that which was reinforced now resulted in worship and praise of God whereas before it was credited to the wisdom of our Founding Fathers or the tenants of a political party.
As we disciple, give counsel, and share the gospel, we must understand that everyone is interpreting the world on a macro/micro level. On a grand scale, culture can influence how we all look at various scenarios. Events that happen and are covered on GMA, discussed on The View, or editorialized about in The New York Times, influence how we interpret our world. Events that take place in our individual lives, which would never be reported on almost any scale, also influence how we interpret our world. They all tell us something about ourselves as a world, nation, state, city, neighborhood, household, and individual. And it's a mess to navigate. It should remind us in our discipleship, in our counsel, and in our mission that we're not God and that's good news!
But it should also remind us that the gospel message we preach addresses how we interpret everything, and give us confidence that the message of reconciliation is a means by which we can address the macro and the micro. The gospel tells us why we exist: to know God. The gospel tells us why stuff happens to us: to be more like Christ, to be acquainted with his suffering, and to trust him more and more.
The gospel is the means by which we enter that interpretive cycle and glorify God by preaching truth (i.e. Paul in Athens, Acts 17). As we share the gospel, we're entering into a full-frontal assault of their interpretive process where idols are threatened and self-centered identities are undermined. People don't like that! But nevertheless, that's what we're called into, sharing the gospel so that, by the power of the Spirit, those with whom we share the gospel see their great need and how it's been met in Christ. Praise God that the message of Christ and him crucified entered our interpretive process, baptizing us into Christ's death and being raised to newness of life by faith in him. It happened to us, and it's happening to others.
By God's grace, and in the power of the Holy Spirit, we can continually grow in how we interpret our world in light of Scripture, helping others to do the same.