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Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. Ephesians 5.11

Subcultures can develop an "oppression mentality" which leads to a binary mindset: we're right, everyone else is wrong - they must be resisted and we must prevail. Churches are no exception, which is alarming because it is difficult to read the Gospels without being struck by the grace of God in Christ, his love for all of creation and his particular concern for outcasts. So how to explain the dichotomy?

In Christian circles, the problem often starts with people taking passages from the Bible out of context - or not reading their Bibles at all! Sometimes, in their thirst for belonging, people just swallow the line they are fed without reflecting on it themselves, or they home in on certain texts which can be made to say something entirely different from the author's original intention (which often happens with the teaching of Paul).

The antidote to this - and it's essential for all Christians anyway - is to read the whole Bible and allow difficult passages or teachings to be understood in the light of their context. We are led from the opening chapters proclaiming how everything owes its existence to God, through an explanation of how evil crept in and developed, while concurrently being introduced to the "salvation narrative" revealing God's plan to restore harmony through a people appointed for that special purpose, eventually realised in the birth of the Messiah, Jesus.

While there is much talk of separation, conflict and discrimination, the overall trajectory is of healing, reconciliation and acceptance. This must frame our reference if we are to avoid falling into a tribalistic mindset, which leads back into Pharisaism, thereby compromising our integrity and undermining the Gospel. No wonder Jesus and Paul came down so hard on those who arrogated God's judgment to themselves!



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