Last semester, I studied in a class called "Hermeneutics." Long and fancy word, you might say. You might also be asking what that is or Googling that word right now. Well the basic definition of hermeneutics is: the principles of Biblical interpretation. In this class, we are shown how silly it is to try and match our own desires, lifestyles, and worldviews to that of the Bible. In some ways, culturally, this class was a bit of an adjustment. But by the end of the class, the Bible is a whole new world again!
When interpreting the Bible, many times you ask, "What does this mean to me?" Good question, right? Wrong. By asking what a particular passage means to you is taking away the essence of God speaking to a broken world. Instead, when approaching interpretation of Scripture, ask yourself two questions:
- "What does this mean? and
- How does it apply to me?"
In that order. What's the purpose for these questions? By asking the first question, you are asking: what happened in this time period? What was the significance of [this place, or these people] mentioned? Why is it worded the way it is worded? What are the original meanings of this word in Greek/Hebrew? By asking this first question, you are finding out what the passage actually means in its context. Once you have done a wee bit of studying, you can go on to the next question: how does this apply to me?
Notice, it's not "how can I apply this to me?" Interpreting the Bible is not about you and your lifestyle, or me and my lifestyle. We need to fix this. Ask how this passage applies to you? Does it say, "thou shalt not bear false witness against your neighbor"? Well what does it mean? Bearing false witness means we are making up stories. This passage means that [the audience - us] are to not lie to or about our neighbor. In essence, do not lie. How does this apply to me? I should not start rumors about my neighbors, I shall not lie to them or about them. I, in general, shall not lie. See how this works? There are more tools in the world for Biblical interpretation, but I want you to start off with these two basic questions. They will get your further in study than you'll ever know!
I also want you to understand: no one is perfect. No one. At all. The question of morality vs. immorality does not quite exist in the sense of us being human. We are all sinners who have fallen short of the glory of God, as it says in Romans 3:23. Although we have been given guidelines for "morality", we are still "immoral" sinners, simply striving to be "moral." Don't feel that you are too imperfect to study God's Word - His Word was meant for those who are not too proud to be wrong. However, that also does not give us the right to "be immoral" just because we are sinners, and God loves us anyways. I hope that, as you learn more about God, you also learn that having a right relationship with Him means that you will learn to love like He does, and will surrender your whole life to Him so that He can change you for His good and perfect will.
Please never hesitate to ask questions!! Maybe I don't have the answer to everything but I would rather you ask and us search for an answer, than for you to search alone and misinterpret God's message to you. I will be praying for you as you learn how to read God's message to us, and that you will grow in your relationship with the One who made you and loves you.