"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

On the sin of eloping and guessing on a multiple-choice exam


Two stories from the current book I'm reading, Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible by E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O'Brien. 

One of the authors talks about a conversation he had with some elders in a village on an island near Borneo. They'd asked his opinion about "a thorny church issue."  A young couple had lived among them for several years after leaving their home village after committing a "grievous sin."  The couple had attended their church for a decade and lived godly lives.  Now they wanted to join the church.

"Should we let them?" asked the obviously troubled elders.

Attempting to avoid the question, I replied, "Well, what grievous sin did they commit?"

The elders were reluctant to air the village's dirty laundry before a guest, but finally one of them replied, "They married on the run."

In America, we call that eloping

"That's it?" I blurted out. "What was the sin?"

Quite shocked, they stared at this young (and foolish) missionary and asked, "Have you never read Paul?"

I certainly thought I had. My Ph.D. was in Paul.

They reminded me that Paul told believers to obey their parents (Eph. 6:1). They were willing to admit that everyone makes mistakes. We don't always obey. But surely one should obey in what is likely the most important decision of his or her life: choosing a spouse.

I suddenly found myself wondering if I had, in fact, ever really read Paul. My "American Paul" clearly did not expect his command to include adult children deciding whom to marry. Moreover, it was clear that my reading (or misreading?) had implications for how I counseled church leaders committed to faithful and obedient discipleship."  (pg. 18)


Here's another cultural thing I found amusing

Randy was grading a multiple-choice exam in Indonesia. He couldn't believe some people left answers blank.

"Why didn't you select an answer on question number three?"

The student looked up and said, "I didn't know the answer."

"You should have at least guessed," I replied.

He looked at me, appalled.  "What if I accidentally guessed the correct answer? I would be implying that I knew the answer when I didn't. That would be lying!"

I opened my mouth to respond, but then realized I was about to argue him to a lower standard!  I shut my mouth.  My American pragmatism had been winning out over my Christian standard of honesty. What was worse was that I hadn't even noticed until a non-Western person pointed it out. What I have found equally interesting is that my Christian students in the United States don't enjoy this story - because they still want to guess answers.  Nonetheless, the challenges of reading with others' eyes should not deter us. We can learn so much from each other."  (pg. 20)

Do you have any similar stories to share about cultural misunderstandings or differences in understanding Scripture (or anything really)? By the way, I absolutely love this book so far!


LK said...

This book sounds really interesting. I think its on my list now!

Amber said...

Huh. I would never have thought of those in relation to the Bible either.

I wonder if maybe the reason we don't think about the 'obeying your parents' part of Paul (in the case of elopement) is because we have this cultural idea that love trumps everything else. Even if we're not thinking of it consciously, the idea that these two people eloped means to us that they must be *really* in love and so it's okay.

As for the guessing = cheating. That...makes no sense to me.

Cheating is deliberately falsely displaying knowledge in that case. You go in with the intent to defraud your teacher/the school/etc. Guessing means that you make the choice that seems the most right to you, even though you're not 100% certain that it's the right answer.

Sarah Familia said...

Those are wonderful anecdotes. I'm putting that book on my list too.

Susanne said...

Amber, that's how I feel about cheating vs. guessing, but I suppose some people think of it differently. It seems a might nit-picky to me, but so does obeying my parent re: the choice of my spouse.

RE: eloping...I think there is a cultural stigma against it. Going against your family's wishes and marrying "on the run." Not allowing people have celebrate the big day with you. Etc. But I never think of it in terms of disobeying Paul's instruction. And most certainly nothing that would - ten years later! - keep a couple from possibly being unable to join a church. Since when does the church's opinion matter on how you got married? Why can you not go home to your village simply because a decade ago, you married this way? That's how I think. It's more, you "sinned" by eloping, but we all got over it in time. No decade of hiding or non-church membership because of it.

Reading this book makes me realize how different my mindset is from others. I keep telling myself "this is similar to Samer's culture...hmmm." I should read it to him and see if he agrees!

LK, Sarah, I'd love to see what takes your attention if you read it.

LK, I demand you start blogging again! :-P

Amber said...

Since when does the church's opinion matter on how you got married?

I...wait. What? Really?

Since...since the church got power. It matters much less now, in our country and probably in other countries like England (I would guess) but the church has pretty much defined and controlled what marriage was and in what forms it was acceptable for a Really Long Time. Remember that whole kerfuffle around Henry XVIII? All about who and how he got married.

Susanne said...

See? I'm so into my modern mindset re: what the church can and cannot control! :)

Amber said...

:p Susanne, the very model of a modern major general! ;)

Think about it this way though: what is the fight against marriage equality if not an attempt for the 'church' to keep control of the definition of marriage? It's not that far in the past that the church *did* control what was and wasn't a valid marriage.

Nathan said...

I'm reading this book right now and loving it! Anecdote after anecdote that make me go, "Whoa, I thought it was a simple matter to say what was right or wrong in most situations." It makes me glad that Christ is the final Judge; if it were me, I'd probably end up damning all the wrong people and exalting all the wrong ones, too. :-)

Susanne said...

Hello,Nathan,and welcome! I'm glad to hear others are enjoying this book. I love stuff like that, and I learned quite a bit. Thanks for your feedback. I enjoyed your comment and reading your profile. :)