Walking a tight rope is a difficult task. It requires an incredible degree of balance and control. Indeed a tight rope could be described as the ultimate narrow path. In order to assist him in successfully making it to the other side, a tight rope walker will often use a pole, weighted at each end to assist him in maintaining his centre of balance over the rope. Carrying a pole aids in maintaining stability while walking over the narrow rope. The pole also adds more weight below the centre of gravity of the walker, which is another bonus for maintaining balance.
Our approach to Scripture often needs to apply a similar principle. As I shared in a previous article, the Bible contains a number of paradoxical statements. Some of these paradoxes are difficult to fully reconcile this side of eternity but others can easily be reconciled if we correctly interpret Scripture; reading it within context and using the whole of Scripture rather than proof texts.
A good example of this is when we look at how Scripture approaches the issue of leadership in the Church. 1 John 2:27 states, “But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him”
At the same time we read in Ephesians 4:11-12, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ”.
Elsewhere we read in Matthew 23:8-10, “But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ”.
Yet Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 4:15-17, “For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me. That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord.”
Paul himself argues that he is subject to no man’s judgement (1 Corinthians 2:15), but then goes on to say that he has judged another man (1 Corinthians 5:3).
What do we make of all this? Does Scripture contradict itself? Is Paul a hypocrite? Not at all! When we begin to examine the intended audience for each statement and the attitude or behaviour that was being addressed, we see that Scripture is acting like that balancing pole: preventing the walker from falling too far to one side or too far on the other.
Mankind has a tendency to fall into one of two errors when it comes to leadership. On the one hand, like ancient Israel, man asks for a king. A modern day manifestation of this is the priest or the pastor in many models of church. Men often want this as it is actually easier to absolve ourselves of personal responsibility for seeking and hearing God for myself. What accentuates the problem is that there are some men, like many of the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, who are seduced by power and control over others, who will allow themselves to be put on such a pedestal and attempt to take up a role in people’s lives that rightfully belongs only to Jesus.
It was necessary for Scripture to destroy such a paradigm. Which it does. But without a counter-balance this could easily lead to problems of an opposite nature, which we have also seen throughout history: Men who refuse to submit to any authority in the name of egalitarianism. We have also seen many leaders who abrogate their authority- refusing to lead those that God has asked them to take responsibility for. Without healthy, Godly leadership there will be chaos in any family, community or church. Therefore Scripture needs to also destroy this kind of thinking.
We can now see that there is an absolute necessity for us to allow Scripture to correct us, to prevent us falling too far one way or the other. In doing so, the Bible is not contradicting itself but ensuring our theology and practice are in line with God’s heart – keeping us walking the tight rope without falling. Unfortunately we have a tendency to give more credence to those Scriptures that support our existing worldview, personality, theology or preferences rather than those which challenge our attitudes and our thinking (something psychologists would refer to as confirmation bias). This can be disastrous! It is like adding extra weight to one side of our balance pole, making it ever more likely that we will lose our balance.
In order to avoid this we should be aware of our (sometimes unconscious) bias, allow for that bias and then let ourselves to be challenged and convicted and allow the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth – a truth we will discover when we embrace the whole counsel of God.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mike serves in Joshua Generation Church. He loves to see people equipped to effectively serve the Kingdom of God. He is married to Chantal and they have two beautiful daughters. You can follow him on Facebook.
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