Have you decided that it’s time to start reading the Bible? Perhaps it’s your first time or maybe you’re dusting off the Bible after avoiding it for some time. Either way, when you read the Bible, you want to be able to extract truth and absorb God’s story and message. However, it’s impossible not to bring elements of your own values into it.
What we need to remember when we read the Bible is that each book in it was written at different times by different people to different audiences. And what many of those audiences had in common was that they lived in a society that favored collectivism over individualism.
Shifting from the lens of individualism when you start reading the Bible
We’re not here to get into whether individualism is good or bad or whether we need to adopt more collectivism into our lives, but we do think it’s important to approach the Bible with a lens of collectivism to understand its message better.
For example, in John 15:14-15 (MSG), Jesus says, “You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father.”
In the Western, individual understanding, we understand this to mean that Jesus wants to be our friend in the way that we understand friends. While there might be an element of truth to this, we should also understand that when He talks about us transitioning from servants (or slaves in some translations) to friends, He is referring to a common cultural phenomenon of the time.
It was commonplace for servants’ masters to release the servant from their obliged servitude but retain the servant as a paid employee and friend of the household. In the context Jesus is talking about, we are invited to be friends in a similar way. We are released from our servitude to the law and religious dogma, but He wants us to stay in the house and follow His way.
Can you think of other passages that might change when you take a more collective approach to them? Think about how this might impact your understanding of Jesus’ teachings and how you choose to follow Him.
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