I’m short-sighted and have worn glasses since I was 4. When I go to the optician I try on a number of different lenses, some of which sharpen up the images on the screen, some of which are utterly useless. My glasses are right for my eyes, but if you were to put them on and try to walk down the street, you would most probably walk into all sorts of obstacles, become disoriented and incur a horrible headache.
So it is when communicating the Bible online, and there can be few more clear examples than the different ways we might look at the book of Judges. To communicate clearly is to help others see things the way you do. Likewise, you must be willing to see things the way someone else looks at them. But to simply “swap glasses” may not be helpful. Rather, we need to the right kind of lenses to take us from what we currently see to what we are aiming for. A one size fits all approach is rarely helpful.
In Judges, some people will see the cycle of the Israelites abandoning God and then being repentant. Obedience and disobedience; a people with collective amnesia. Others may see this as a chronicle of bloody violence; acts of genocide committed in the name of God. Others still may view this as an unhistorical myth, an invention designed to give an ethnic group an identity.
We might choose to reject some of these points of view, but it would be wrong to ignore them. To communicate effectively, one must first have some understanding of where your audience is; are they over-familiar with the text, knowing all the ins and outs, looking for some new angle? Maybe they cherry-pick the more gruesome episodes, such as the hilt of Ehud’s sword disappearing into Eglon’s belly. Maybe there are questions over the veracity of the accounts of Gideon’s fleece or Samson’s haircut.
Those who have grown up in Christian households or have otherwise been Christians a long time will likely look at the Bible through a very different set of eyes to someone who maybe went to a Sunday school 30-50 years ago, but who doesn’t pick up their Bible regularly and we must at least to try to empathise with where someone is coming from.
I read recently a case of someone who went to an Alpha course with a specific set of questions, but those running the course seemed to ignore the questions and answer things from a “very” Christian point of view; in effect, giving them the wholly wrong set of glasses to look through.
When communicating online we must bear in mind our audience. Is it is a discussion amongst other Christians (as I think the Big Bible blog probably is)? Is it evangelical in nature, explaining to non-Christians what it is you believe and why? Are you talking to those from other traditions, denominations, cultures, etc? To be a good speaker, one must first be a good listener. Similarly, to be a good writer, one must also be an attentive reader. Let’s adapt our message to our surroundings, like Paul did when he seized upon the altar to the Unknown God to make his message understood.
- How do you try to see things from others’ perspectives?
- Have you come across any great communicators who have helped you see things from a brand new perspective?
- Have you encountered difficulty in trying to communicate something from Judges; and if so, were you able to get your message across eventually?