For most of my adult life as a Christian, I was taught and encouraged to be nice. I was taught that women in the church should be mild mannered and take great care not to offend anyone. I was taught this because of selective scriptures and selective sermons taught by the Apostle Paul. In my late 20’s and early 30's, I didn’t know whether to love Paul or to resent him. Once I started studying and researching the bible, I realized what Paul said isn’t always what we claim Paul said. Scripture understanding is very much like the game of gossip.
In the game of gossip, the players sit in a circle. The first player says something in the ear of the second player and the second player repeats what they heard to the third player and so on. Once the sentence makes its way all around the circle and circulates through many mouths, many ears, and many minds, the first person laughs at just how “off” the other players were when the original saying is explained. As in the game of gossip, I may fully believe I know exactly what was said and repeat it the best I know how. Still, I may discover I am wrong when total truth is revealed.
(Notice I said, “total truth.” It is important to realize the entire bible complements itself. It does not contradict itself.)
Paul traveled a great deal in his ministry once the Lord called him to spread the Good News all over the world. The problem is Paul couldn’t spread the news to the United States of America because Paul didn’t know there was a United States of America. Paul made the most of his time on earth; the earth as he knew it. He wrote letters to document his teachings to certain groups during his missionary journeys. His message was always customized for each group but always pointed to Christ. Different groups had different needs (and different sins), but Paul intimately knew each audience.
As I’ve matured in age, as a woman, and as a child of God, I am beginning to understand that the purpose of the bible is to educate us so that we can tell the story of Jesus Christ. Doctrine, opinion, methods, mannerisms and commentaries may be helpful, but our True Teacher is the Holy Spirit. Paul’s teachings are great but they do not replace the movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Study to show yourself approved – don’t study to prove everyone else wrong.
“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15