“Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him. 
Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.” Proverbs 26:4-5 

Written by Rev. Brandon Durán

It appears to be a contradiction.  Read the Bible enough and you will find multiple incongruencies (although none are as seemingly apparent as Proverbs 26).  Some try to harmonize all of the discordant notes in scripture.  I find the apparent contradictions to be helpful in identifying our hermeneutical lens.

A hermeneutical lens is the idea we bring to biblical interpretation.  The lens is comprised of the beliefs we bring to scriptures.  These beliefs can be shaped by Bible passages we like, church traditions we treasure, or our experience of God in creation.  All of these influence how we read the Bible.  Sometimes, it’s not easy to see the glasses we are wearing and it is the seemingly contradictory parts of the Bible that show us our hermeneutical lens.  Let me give you an example.

Is God “jealous and vengeful” (Nahum 2:1)? Or is God “forgiving and good” (Psalm 86:5)? You might say God is both.  Yet even then, ask yourself, do you see God as jealous and sometimes forgiving or as good but occasionally vengeful?  Notice the difference between what is a character trait and what is an action? Another question would be to ask, which verse makes you want to have more context in order to understand it and which verse seems easier to accept at face value?

A dominant lens for me comes from 1 John 4:16, “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.  God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.”  The love of God is revealed in Christ.  Christ shows us that this love is not weak or saccharine.  The love of God is courageous, creative, and life giving.  God’s love liberates with the truth, it embraces the wounded, and it is good news for all, but especially for those at the end of their rope.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King often spoke about the relationship of love and power.  In his sermon about loving our enemies he said, “In the final analysis, love is not this sentimental something that we talk about. It’s not merely an emotional something. Love is creative, understanding goodwill for all.”  I think it was his wife Bernice King who summed the idea beautifully saying, “Love is not a weak, spineless emotion; it is a powerful moral force on the side of justice.”

I read all of scripture through a hermeneutic that proclaims, “God is love.”

My hope is that through my daily life I could look at everyone, everyday, with that same lens that says, “God is love.”

What is your hermeneutical lens?