A is for . . .

AMBIGUITY

Why do I like Jesus’ parables so much? The ambiguity.

In the parable of the poor widow challenging the powerful judge, what happened to them once she “received” justice?

Did the fellow the Samaritan found become a better man once he was healed and on his feet? Or did he ever heal?

What happened to the workers near the end of the line, following only an hour of working, after they received their “equal” wages?

Ah, the questions! Ambiguity and uncertainty define part of a parable’s strength.

Yes, of course, we are then invited to abstractly wonder, ”What happens next?” Or, “What would I do?” Sometimes the end of a parable matters as much as offering a single potato chip to a starving person. Focus on what’s most important for you to mull over, even if it scares the crap out of you.

And . . . I hope enough of the ambiguity lingers in the “real world” and we realize that every concrete encounter can be experienced with fresh and refreshed eyes. Let uncertainty birth discovery. Parables invite us to be the Lewis and Clark of relationships . . . and of our own hearts.

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4 Comments

  1. I always relish parables because they give me a chance to be a director of a stage play…with decisions such as “Was Richard of Glouchester (in Shakespeare’s Richard III) deformed because he was twisted inside (the Renaissance answer) or was he twisted inside because he was deformed (the modern answer). Similarly, as Larry suggests, the story of the Good Samaritan has more different interpretations than you can shake a stick at (whatever that means). Good Samaritan laws in the US (see last episode of Seinfeld) require one to offer assistance to someone in need. Good Samaritan law in Tanzania require the government to TAKE assistance from whomever offers it, whether they be West or East, Capitalist or Communist, Christian or Muslim. An ideal Sunday School class for teens would be to have them come up with as many different interpretations of a parable as possible. No bars on creativity (as long as nothing is introduced which flatly violates the language of the text.) I was annoyed to tears once when a pastor preached on the Prodigal Son, and made an assertion which was not supported by the text. No drawing outside the lines.

    1. Thanks Bruce…though I’d also suggest: an ideal Sunday School class for ADULTS would be to have them…” You know, kids, youth, adults, they’re our future and they are also our right here and now!

  2. This one really makes me think Larry. What would I do? What does happen after ?? I know what I would want to do, but would I really do what I feel is best? Do I have fresh eyes, or are they clouded?

    @Bruce , I love your Good Samaritan Seinfeld analogy

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