About Jesus - Steve (Stephen) Sweetman

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Comprehending What The Bible Communicates  


A local doctor of sociology recently said that we only comprehend thirty percent of what we hear.  In their 1988 hit song entitled "In The Living Years," Mike and the Mechanics sang "you can listen as well as you hear."  Both the doctor and the rock band suggest that hearing is one thing, but listening is another thing, and listening requires our diligent effort.   


There are many reasons why we don't comprehend what we hear.  Our minds are pre-occupied with other things.  Why listen when we think we are right.  We are busy formulating a response to what we hear.  We don't know the one we hear well enough to know how he defines certain words and terms.  We are fed up with the vast variety of voices vying for our attention that we plug our ears and just tune it all out.        


James 1:19 seems relevant to all of this.    


"My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,"


James tells us to be quick to listen and slow to speak.  The Greek verbs from which our English words "listen" and "speak" are translated implies that the actions of listening and speaking have a specific goal that needs to be accomplished, which I believe is understandable communication.  Both listening and speaking, then, require diligent effort if the communication is to be effectively understood.   


Effective communication occurs when what is communicated is understood as the communicator intends it to be understood.  In Biblical terms, that would mean we must attempt to understand the Bible as it wants to be understood, not as we think it should be understood.  We must, then, be slow to speak our interpretative response into the Biblical communication.  A quick interpretation will end in misunderstanding and misapplication.  Our presuppositional biases, our twenty-first century western-world cultural mindset, and our English language with its definitions of words and terms, often diminishes our understanding of what the Bible is communicating.   


I think Mike and the Mechanics, the doctor of sociology, James, and maybe even you, might agree with me when I say that the best way to understand what is being communicated is to take the needed effort to know the communicator.  Whether it's my wife, my friend, my Lord, or the Bible, knowing the communicator helps me understand what is communicated.  Knowing as much about the Bible as is possible is necessary before I jump to a quick doctrinal conclusion.  To the degree that I can know when a Biblical passage was written, to whom it was written, by whom it was written, the historical cultural environment in which it was written, and the language in which it was written, will be the degree to which I can effectively comprehend what the Bible is communicating.  That takes much diligent effort.       


More than ever before I realize my need to be quick to listen to what the Bible is communicating and slow to speak or impose my thoughts into its communication.  Hearing is one thing.  Listening with the goal of comprehending is another thing, and if need be, I don't hesitate to re-adjust any doctrinal interpretations to which I hold. 

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