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CONTEXTUALIZATION

Should I stop beating my wife?

How scripture solves contextually relevant questions

by COO Mark Huffman

concerned manPastor “Mike” asked me to lead the men’s Bible study. I asked him what he would like me to teach. “Marriage,” was his reply. “We need help with our marriages.” I was nervous. The men, ten of them, had all come to Christ from a different majority faith. They all grew up in homes with a VERY different context on marriage than what I’d grown up with, and now they were trying to raise their children in godly homes. How could I approach this group with my limited knowledge of their context? The answer was clear: with scripture, the Holy Spirit, and by facilitating an open discussion. That evening, I took the men to Ephesians 5 and asked some questions about the text, letting them contextualize the application.

Our discussion on Ephesians 5:22-24, the verses on wives submitting to their husbands, went smoothly. But then came Eph. 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” As I asked how this would look in their culture, a discussion broke out in their local language, which my translator did not know. We sat waiting and wondering what had gotten them so worked up. Finally, they stopped, turned to us and asked, “So we need to stop beating our wives?”

Wow, I had never been asked that question before and that was not the application I had in mind for the text! I could easily have launched into a sermon on the subject, but I was facilitating, leaning on scripture and trying to ask good questions to get them to process God’s word in their context. I knew the Holy Spirit was at work in each of them. I asked a go-to question I often use when I am stuck. “What does the text say?” Another discussion broke out in the local language. Finally, they stopped, turned to us and said, “We should stop beating our wives!”

Mark Huffman and his men's group
Mark Huffman, fifth from left, meets with the men's Bible study.

“But how can we do that? In our culture, if you are a real man you MUST beat your wife.” Wow, another new question and another new application. Again, a sermon wasn’t needed. What we needed was scripture, the Holy Spirit and a good question to facilitate discussion. But what could I ask? I’d already asked my usual go-to question. I quickly and silently prayed one of my favorite prayers, “Help!” and asked the only thing that came to my mind. “The church is the bride of Christ. How does Jesus treat US?” Another discussion in the local language broke out. Finally, they stopped, turned to me and said, “We NEED to stop beating our wives!” They were obviously convicted. God’s word, the Holy Spirit and a few simple questions produced transformation in several marriages that evening. The key to reaching these men in their context was scripture, the Holy Spirit and facilitating a few open questions.

The next day, one of the deacons approached me after church. “I have never told my wife I love her. How can I tell my wife I love her?” God was still at work.

 

 

 

This article first appeared in the summer 2018 Engage.