Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Do Not Explain - Do Not Pass GO

Generally, I feel we have an obligation to use language that will be understood by our audience to mean what we intend it to mean. This seems a basic principle of good communication.

The above generalization, however, must be subjected to the question of motive. Is my purpose for explaining myself merely self-serving, a strategy of self-protection? Or is it truly altruistic, pursuing clarity for the benefit of those on the other side of the dialogue?

In John 2, Jesus issued a challenge to the Pharisees: "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." The text explains that Jesus was speaking of "the temple of his body," but the Pharisees had no way of knowing this; indeed the conversation took place at the temple, the context thus reinforcing the apparent (though incorrect) meaning. What are we to infer when we observe that Jesus does nothing to prevent or remedy this misunderstanding?

We generally take it for granted that it is within our control (and within our duty) to do whatever we can to prevent misunderstandings. Yet there are many instances in the scripture where we see Jesus leaving himself unexplained and open to misinterpretation, such as not correcting ambiguity regarding his birthplace, not defending himself at his trial, and not returning to the Pharisees after the resurrection for a little object lesson about the truth.

Jesus was frequently cryptic, secretive, obscure. He often left the burden of understanding with his audience. What he said only made sense when it was "mixed with faith" on the part of those who heard him.

Maybe we explain too much.


  1. I kind of get it. What's your point?

  2. Not sure I have a specific point, other than questioning our penchant for explaining everything. This is just observation, exploration, suggesting thoughts.