My son who conducts multi-cultural training, showed me the Lewis Model Dimensions of Behaviour and like many who have attended his seminars, I had an 'AHA' moment. Firstly, I realised that I am so typical of the bottom left hand corner personality/culture and secondly I could now have a much more enlightened understanding of why other people don't think like me. Definitely an 'AHA' moment.
The other morning, while reading 1 Timothy in the New Testament, a book I have read many times as is obvious from my notes written in the margins, I had another 'AHA' moment. Paul makes some very controversial statements in his writings and not just to Timothy, statements which are not exactly politically correct in contemporary Western society. I realise they need to be taken in context, but they can still be rather perplexing. It was after I read the commentary 'Paul's focus is on regulating this situation, not legislating for all situations', that I had my 'AHA' moment and so many things now made sense. ( I must be a slow learner!)
This is what I realised - the BIG picture! Imagine being tasked to sort out an organisation which had gone off the rails. In that situation, I would firstly look at the whole organisation and how it was functioning, then see where the problems lay, and then seek to resolve those problems. That is just what Paul was doing. Each church to whom he wrote had is own unique set of problems which often related to the local culture. Take 1 Timothy 2:12 "I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man" for example. This teaching was meant to ensure that Christian women did not behave in the same manner as female priests from the cult of Artemis. I knew that ( from my previous notes) but the big picture just had not evolved.
My suggestion for those struggling with Paul's controversial statements is:- before reading one of his letters, check out what the problems were with that particular church or group and the context in which those problems arose, then read the letter and see how Paul addressed those problems. Of course, not all of Paul's letters to each church only problem solve - they contain deep and meaningful theological and practical advice as well.
Looking at the whole picture of Paul's teachings, the basis of all that teaching is love - all instruction must be done in love. 1 Corinthians 13:13 :"And now faith, hope, and love abide, and the greatest of these is love."