We live in a day of unprecedented human freedoms in the West. Oh, it’s not perfect by any means. Yet at no other time in human history have people been politically, socially and economically freed from binding shackles of oppressive government, social conventions and financial bondage.
If you, like me, were raised in the midst of this liberated environment, it’s hard to imagine what life was like without such freedoms. We cannot imagine not having the freedom to vote, and vote as we want. We cannot imagine not having the freedom to act socially in whatever way we want, too. Rainbow coloured hair? No problem. Quirky niche subcultural clothing and make-up styles? Go for it. Alternative self-expression in all areas of life while castigating anyone who looks at you askance? Yep. You can do that, too, all the while publicly shaming objectors as cultural troglodytes.
In our cultural environment today, many have great trouble with objective viewpoints on all things past. We look down on all our ancestors as poor, wretched Neanderthals of socially backward antiquity.
It is from this growing narrow mindset that objections to the Bible, to God’s actions in the world through the Patriarchs, prophets and Israel, as well as the Apostles and New Testament Church are hurled with glee and abandon. Yet in the halls of this environment, if we listen carefully, we can hear this axiom echo: If you don’t know your history, you’ll be forced to repeat it.
Thus we must appreciate the historical setting of Abraham owning slaves. Of the owning, buying, selling and even gifting of people as property. We need to appreciate the socio-historical setting – as well as religious – for why God mandated in limited times and places what seems today to be excessive violence. And we need to understand both the socio-political setting of the New Testament believers and their responses to injustices of government.
Why do we need to understand these things? Because they are our history, shaping who we are and they can still shape who we will be, as well. Even more, because Jesus’ redemptive work in you and me by the power of His Spirit, God uses us to reshape our world as salt and light. Understanding these are context for applying God’s Word.
God’s plan isn’t to reform all the world, but rather to save us and reform us into His image!