Seeing red

image courtesy of photobucket.com

How do you explain the color red to a blind person? Or any color, really? There’s much the other senses can compensate for when it comes to grasping the essence of something–how something feels, tastes, smells, etc. But how do you describe the essence of color to someone who has no concept of it?

What if I asked you to describe a lion to a person who had never seen a lion? Now take it a step further. What if you gave the hide of a lion to that person and asked him to taxidermy said lion to be put on display? The results might be akin to something like this:

image courtesy of thedailywh.at

According to Neatorama.com, the story goes as follows:

“In 1731, King Frederick I of Sweden received a lion as a gift from the Bejen of Algiers, but after it died, the pelt and bones were presented to a taxidermist who had never seen a lion. You see the result looks more like a cartoon character than the king of beasts.

Doesn’t exactly capture the essence of what you understand a lion to be, now does it?

image of taxidermy lion courtesy of photobucket.com

Nope. Not even a little bit. I find myself feeling bad for everyone involved. Mostly the lion, though. This beautiful, majestic creature living out its last days in captivity, then to add insult to injury, having its body turned into a horrible caricature put on display for centuries after its death.

And I wonder if we’ve done that with the Word of God.

Under ordinary circumstances, my mind wouldn’t have made the leap from a bad taxidermy job to scripture. It just so happens that I had a rather interesting conversation with a family member on Friday night, thought about it most of the weekend, then received the link to the above story via email from my friend Dorothea.

Before I share the conversation, I need to provide a little back story:

This person grew up going to church every Sunday. Got married and had children, who also went to church every Sunday. By this time, he was more of a Christmas and Easter Christian, but their mother took them every week because that’s what good people did. I’ve known this person my entire life. I’ve spent lots of time with him. I don’t ever recall seeing him read a bible. Not even in church when the preacher says “Turn to Matthew, chapter 3”. He’s like hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of people who come to church on Sunday, get their fill of God and think they know Him based on what some guy behind a pulpit tells them. They don’t need to read the bible because the good parts–the important parts–are preached on Sunday morning. The “need to knows”, if you will. I’m pretty sure if I attributed the quote “God helps those who help themselves” to the bible instead of Benjamin Franklin, he wouldn’t bat an eye. He likes to watch Joel Osteen on the Sunday mornings when he misses the service at his church, because that counts, right?

Imagine my surprise when he told me he was attending a bible study.

Imagine my horror when I found out it was a study of the Book of Revelation:

“We started this bible study about the Book of Revelations. It’s pretty scary stuff. I never knew that Catholicism would become the One World religion and that a current member of the Vatican is the Anti-Christ.”

To which my response was, “Whaaaa?”

Followed immediately by me saying that Revelation is subject to many different interpretations, and that it is very often misinterpreted. I may have some doctrinal disagreements with my Catholic friends, but I don’t doubt for a moment that we serve the same God. That they believe in the same Jesus I do. My husband then asked him if this was being taught as truth or simply as the teacher’s opinion. “The teacher’s opinion”, was the response.

But, you see? For a person who trusts what other, seemingly more biblically knowledgable people say about the Word of God rather than the Word of God itself, opinion often become truth.

Just like the unfortunate taxidermist who didn’t see with his own eyes what a lion is, he creates this incomplete, often horrible misinterpretation of its essence.

I know there are a few pastors who read this blog on a regular basis. I’m urging you, if you don’t do so already, to please encourage your congregations not to take your word for what God says, but to confirm what you teach them by studying the bible.

The most effective way to train a person how to spot counterfeit $20 bills is to have them intensely study real $20 bills. The same principal applies to God’s Word.

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15 Responses to “Seeing red”

  1. karenzach March 29, 2011 at 12:28 am #

    I LOVE this post. I love the way your mind connects the discordant things of life.

  2. Sandra Heska King March 29, 2011 at 7:11 am #

    Oh, wow, Kathy. Wow!

    Be a Berean. Check out everything. No matter who is preaching or teaching it.

    Applause!

  3. James Williams March 29, 2011 at 9:15 am #

    This is excellent! I was like the friend you describe, for many years. Thankfully, I ended up joining a small church many years ago which emphasized exactly what you say here. The phrase our pastor used repeatedly was “get in the Word for yourselves”. Although I moved away 16 years ago, that concept has stuck with me to this day, and I’m passing it onto my kids.

    thanks for this.

  4. Ryan Tate March 29, 2011 at 9:21 am #

    I’ve heard that scholars who have spent their lives studying the book of Revelation agree to land on completely different interpretations. There is so much symbolism, analogies, literal references, and such that its hard for us uneducated folk to side with just one view. We must always test and approve what God’s will is, judging everything, and holding each other accountable.

    This is a great post and I love the lion. Ha!

  5. HisFireFly March 29, 2011 at 9:23 am #

    Amen and AMEN!

    I want my words to create an image of a lion, the Lion of Judah that is real and true, based on my time with Him and His Word.

    Thank you for this impactful post, Kat.

  6. Richard Mabry March 29, 2011 at 9:29 am #

    Excellent post, and one that’s going to leave me thinking about it all day. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Marni March 29, 2011 at 9:57 am #

    I rarely trust authority. I have pondered why for years. It’s not like I was ever given a good reason to distrust, so it’s odd to me I’ve been this way since I can remember.

    I remember as a child, listening to my grandma’s pastor preach, and sitting there thinking “Whatever dude. I’ll believe it when I see it. (as a side note, I have the same attitude when I watch the State of the Union addresses, but I digress).

    But as I matured in Christ, I began to see where this flaw, could be a real asset if I used it correctly. I’ve had 3 pastors in my life. One of them turned out to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Imagine how ugly it could have been had I not been accustomed to studying the Word to make sure what I was told from the pulpit, was true.

    All that to say this…I assume the sheppard I sit under knows his stuff when he gets up to preach each Sunday, but I only trust it, once God Himself reveals it to me.

  8. jasonS March 29, 2011 at 12:45 pm #

    Awesome, Kat. Great point and right or wrong, I laughed out loud at the interpretation given. Not because I think I have any more valid analysis, but it still amazes me that some think they are the ones who connected all the dots and put it all together. We’ve all got our issues. Again, great post. Thanks.

  9. barbara March 29, 2011 at 12:58 pm #

    Very good point. Study the Bible. The only source of complete wisdom and truth. Many preachers preach sound doctrine but if they are legit they will qualify what they say by telling members not to take their word for it but to study it for themselves.
    Thankfully I have a pastor like that now and am very grateful because in the past I had the opposite kind.

  10. Hazel Moon March 29, 2011 at 1:16 pm #

    Loved this post!! So many would twist the scriptures to make them fit into their personal doctrine. I do hope your friend is not mixed up in a cult that advertise Bible study and then swiftly take you off into something weird. God’s Word is not weird, even if there are some things we may not understand. Especially the things of the Spirit. How can those who have never seen a lion explain that it is not there? Or that we no longer have lions!!

  11. Jeanne Damoff March 29, 2011 at 1:49 pm #

    Good word. Important word. Thank you, Kathy. I always appreciate your boldness and passion.

    Love, Jeanne

  12. Jason March 29, 2011 at 2:44 pm #

    Wow. I can’t believe that interpretation of Revelation. You have to read the Bible and check what you hear against it. Period.

  13. jake March 29, 2011 at 11:16 pm #

    Kathy, you really put some great examples together here. Your friend has been blind and was misled by someone who 1- had their own agenda or 2- just shouldn’t be teaching until they’ve learned too! Do you know how many uneducated pastors are operating in the United States today? I know I beat this drum all the time and that one can teach without a degree of sorts, but when it comes to truth dealing with peoples’ lives?

    Frankly, we should be afraid of what we say, (even you and me…) because James 3:1 says, “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.”

    Ouch

  14. Larry Hehn March 30, 2011 at 7:36 pm #

    Great analogy about spotting counterfeits by becoming very familiar with the real thing. That says it all!

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  1. Beth Moore & Biblical Illiteracy | Karen Spears Zacharias - March 31, 2011

    […] Moore article), you might want to head over to Katdish’s site and read this excellent piece Seeing Red. I’ve mentioned Sarah TheBarge to you before and suggested you read her blogs about The Somalia […]

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