This Land is My Land

The Tuesday morning Bible study group finished up their study of the book of Judges. The later chapters of Judges includes the story of Samson and Delilah. There have been a couple movies made about the story of Samson and Delilah and we decided to watch 2 of them. We will compare the 2 movies with one another and the Biblical account of the 2 characters. Well into the first Hollywood adaptation of the story, we have noted a number of differences between this movie and the Biblical story.

Hollywood’s interpretation of the Samson and Delilah story reminds me that any Bible text can be interpreted many ways. The message that is ‘heard’ from a text is very much influenced by the reader’s life situation. For example, a Biblical text about money or food will be ‘heard’ much differently by a middle-class American than an impoverished family in the Third World. And so, it can be challenging to look to the Bible for answers – the first source we people of faith should look to for answers.

A major issue in our news headlines is the issue of immigration and the affect immigration has on our lives. Immigration is an extremely hot topic as Arizona’s law allowing police officers to request identification from anyone who appears to be a person who could be an “illegal alien” is challenged. As people of faith, we can look to the Bible for answers – and find many different answers.

We could turn to the story of God creating the universe. God created everything. Americans might claim that no land belongs to anyone because it all belongs to God.

We could turn to the stories of the Hebrew people claiming the land of Canaan as their homeland. After leaving Egypt, the Hebrew people capture the land of Canaan as the place of milk and honey which they believe God had promised to their father Abraham. Americans might claim that the United States is our land and we have the right to protect it from persons who are not American citizens.

We could turn to the stories in the Hebrew Bible which teach the importance of hospitality. Some of the lessons about extending hospitality to the stranger even refer back to Egypt reminding the Israelites that they know what it was like to be a stranger in Egypt. Americans might claim that we should extend hospitality to the strangers or immigrant aliens living among us.

The immigration reform debate has led to a call to review the 14th Amendment. Democrats and Republicans are now trying to interpret the intention of the amendment based on the 1866 congressional debate leading up to the ratification of the Constitutional amendment. Congress models an important behavior as they look to the records of the debate to extract the amendment’s intent. We Christians should too look to the life situation in which a Biblical text was written in order to determine God’s intended message before we draw a conclusion to our dilemma and apply any Biblical teaching to our life situation.

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