Have you ever thought that a particular text in the Bible just doesn’t apply anymore? Consider for example the command that an elder be the “husband of but one wife” (1 Tim 3:2). This text doesn’t seem to have much direct application in an American context. I mean, can you name one American man who was disqualified from being an elder because he had two wives? I realize there other ways to interpret this text so that it fits, but here in Samfya the text fits just the way it is written because we meet men who have multiple wives!
Another example is the command against a unique form of stealing. “If you enter your neighbor’s grain field, you may pick kernels with your hands, but you must not put a sickle to his standing grain” (Deut 23:25). The idea here is that if you’re walking from point A to point B and you walk through your neighbor’s field you may take an ear or two of grain but you can’t harvest your neighbor’s crops! This may not seem like a problem in a world where farms are gigantic and no one but the farmer walks through them. But here in Samfya, where there are many small subsistence farmers with tiny plots of land, this passage is helpful. A few weeks ago the Bible school was in a rush to put up a fence around its corn plot because people were walking through and taking much more than just an ear or two.
Next time you are ready to jettison a passage because it doesn’t seem to apply, stop and consider that somewhere in the world there is a Christian who is thankful that passage is in the Bible. I don’t say this to suggest that we take every passage and apply it slavishly to our context. That’s a post for another day. I only mention this now because my time in Samfya has helped me see that my view of the scope of scripture is influenced by the fact that I live in America. Being here has helped me develop a deeper appreciation of the value of the scripture around the world. The Word of God is useful in a wide variety of cultural contexts. It’s depth and breadth of content is astounding. It’s ability to speak into different cultures makes it unequaled in the world of literature.
I’m drawn to this topic because I’m in the middle of teaching a Survey of Theology course at the Samfya Bible School. I have a class of four students. These three men and one woman have registered for this compressed program because they are unable to attend school for a whole semester. We meet for three hours each morning. Here are some details about the group.
1. They can all function in English and I am teaching in English. But “function” can be defined broadly, and I have an American accent.
2. One student has been through the SBS one year program, but the others have not.
3. They are all adults over 25.
4. They are inquisitive and ask good questions.
Pray that our time together would be profitable. Pray that I would be able to communicate well. Pray that language and cultural barriers would not be a significant cause for misunderstanding.
On other fronts, we could use your prayer finding housing for the Israel portion of our trip. The prices are coming in much higher than we expected and we need to wrap this up in the next week or so. Pray that the Lord would lead us to the right apartment.
We are down to our last month in Zambia. The time has gone so fast. We are thankful for all who are praying for us.