This is the 2nd part of a powerful quote taken from Scott McKnight’s book, “The Blue Parakeet.”
Yes, Paul was a chameleon – he changed color everywhere he went – but he kept the same body. His gospel mission shaped everything he did. His gospel was the same, but his circumstances shaped how he went about his business of spreading the gospel. Paul’s process was messy to outsiders but Spirit-led to insiders.
Some are a bit taken back by Paul, but reading the Bible as Story makes me think Paul is doing nothing new here. Adaptability of message and lifestyle is a them written into the fabric of the ongoing development of the Bible itself. God spoke in:
Abraham’s days in Abraham’s ways (walking between severed animals)
Moses’ days in Moses’ ways (law and ceremony)
David’s days in David’s ways (royal policies)
Isaiah’s days in Isaiah’s ways (walking around nude for a few years)
Ezra’s days in Ezra’s ways (divorcing Gentile spouses)
Jesus’ days in Jesus’ ways (intentional poverty)
Peter’s days in Peter’s ways (strategies for living under an emperor)
John’s days in John’s ways (dualistic language – light and darkness)
Adaptability and development are woven into the very fabric of the Bible. From beginning to end there is a pattern of adopting and adapting. It is the attempt to foist one person’s days and ways on everyone’s days and ways that quenches the Holy Spirit. Can we be biblical if we fail to be as adaptable as the Bible itself was – only for our world? Is this messy? Sometimes it is. Was the Jerusalem council messy? Yes, it was. Did they discern what to do for that time? Yes, they did. Was it permanent, for all time, for everyone, always, everywhere? No.
All genuine biblical faith takes the gospel message and “incarnates” it in a context. So, we lay down this observation that unmasks all that we are advocating:
What is good for Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah, Ezra, Jesus, Peter and Paul is also good for us. But, the precise expression of the gospel or the manner of living of Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah, Ezra, Jesus, Peter and Paul may not be our expression or our manner of living. Living out the Bible means living out the Bible inour day in our way of discerning together how God would have us live.
We are called to learn the Plot and the Story, to listen to God, and to discern what to say and how to live in our day in our way. We will speak to our world only when we unleash the gospel so that it can speak in our day in our ways. But we are called to be faithful, and we do this by [staying within the grand story of Scripture] – by reading the Bible and knowing the Bible and living out its story in our world today.
What this book is advocating is not new. It is my belief that most Christians and churches do operate with a pattern of discernment, but it is rarely openly admitted and even more rarely clarified. Discernment, I am arguing, is how we have always read the Bible; in fact, it is how the biblical authors themselves read th Bible they had! I want to being a conversation among Bible readers about this very topic: What pattern of discernment is at work among us?