The Gift of Context in Worship

One of many gifts my Jewish identity offered to me was the deep conviction that the Old Testament and New Testament were a single, seamless narrative revealing God’s perfect nature and redemptive work among his created, beloved image-bearers. Though few Gentile Christians would disagree with that sentiment, I’ve learned many have a conflicted relationship with the first 75% or so of the pages in their Bibles.

While this statement reflects the continuing trend toward Bible illiteracy in our churches, my own experience has highlighted the reality that even those who count themselves as committed students of the Bible tend to be skittish about the Old Testament. There are a variety of reasons for this, but many of the main ones stem from the false binary that the Old Testament is all about works and Law. Since New Testament Jesus came to free us from the Law, this bifurcated line of thinking tends to lead well-meaning believers to the conclusion that they don’t need to worry much about what the Old Testament has to say except, perhaps, as a negative example for us today.

This disconnect is unhealthy because it leaves us with a malnourished understanding of God, the Bible, the world in which we live, and ourselves. The Jewish Jesus living and ministering in the first century would have never commended this approach to the Bible he read. Nor would any of his first-century followers, the majority of whom were also Jewish. [Read more]

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