Recent debates and discursions have caused me to wonder how frequently and to what degree we interpret things how we want them to be (ideal) rather than how they ought to be (real). No matter how varying our interpretations may be on the same thing, there is at least one common theme – they are charged by motive. This is an obvious conclusion. If there is no prompt, then there is no impetus for interpretation. If not already obvious, it would eventually logically follow that we could all benefit from asking ourselves: “What is my motive as I interpret?”
This question is full of complexities, but not because interpretation is complex, but because we are complex. Don’t we, after all, bring life to interpretation? Are we not the artists of interpretation? There are certainly a lot of external (e.g., cultural norms, peer pressure, etc…) and internal (e.g., personality, character, etc…) forces at play as we interpret. Perhaps chiefly, our ego. I wonder how much better off we’d be, along with others around us, if we sidelined our egos and other things that inhibit us from engaging in genuine intellectual honesty as we interpret. I wonder how often and to what magnitude we interpret things as other than what they are actually.
All this prelude to highlight a perennial question: “Who was Jesus, and what is the significance of what He said and did?” Somehow, someway, for some reason, we sometimes decide it would be best to interpret Him how we wish rather than how we ought. At times, perhaps too often, we take things out of context to serve our purposes, rather than letting our context serve the purpose. Our interpretation of Jesus is no exception. How many times do we take the sugarcoated Jesus with a cherry on top, but pass on lutefisk Jesus? Why do we think we can take something that is homogeneous and segment into separate pieces? Is that really objective thought?
The main thrust is this: Jesus’ story, taken as a whole, overwhelmingly affirms that He really thought He was God, and the fact He was crucified for blasphemy is further evidence of His claim. There really is no mystery in essentially saying repeatedly, “Hey, I’m God.” The intrigue is in the implications of what Jesus said and did. We can interpret Jesus as we want, or we can interpret Jesus as we ought. If we come to Jesus with a mindset of the latter, we will likely soon realize the few decisions we have regarding His identity, and how inconvenient and uncomfortable it is to follow Him – something we would probably not naturally wish to interpret.
*Origin of Discursion: Observing others, as well as myself, interpret what we want, rather than what we ought.