The author of a popular book recently spoke at our church.
He has received a lot of criticism about the book (We got complaints for inviting him to speak!).
Some of the criticisms were based in honest differences in opinion. However, many of the criticisms of the author were based on statements from the book taken way out of context.

An honest and thoughtful look at the quotes in context would have eliminated most of the conflict.

Isn’t that true of many of our conflicts in life?

Think about the realm of politics, and even more so the news media’s “reporting” on politics.  Have you ever taken the time to learn the context of a politician’s controversial sound bite that is played on the news?  My observation is that many times the true meaning of the quote is twisted and lost in the midst of the controversy. 

To get a little closer to home, or work, think about the interpersonal conflicts that we have.  How often do we stop and really understand what the other person is saying, what they mean and why they are saying it?  If we would make that effort some, of our conflicts, certainly not all, would be resolved.

In communication – context is king.

  1. Look at the statement in context of the entire written or spoken work.
  2. Consider the statement in light of the person’s background, including the other things that they have said and writen. 
  3. Consider the audience and setting in which that the statement was given, including the culture and history. 

Those things are crucial to show us the context and therefor the true meaning of a statement.

In a class called  Cultural Hermeneutics, Dr Kevin VanHoozer encouraged us to apply the Golden Rule to Interpretation. VanHoozer called us to interpret another person’s words with the care and respect would have them interpret your own words.

In our polarized culture of sound bites and short fuses, we could use a lot more of the Golden Rule.