But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold. Mark 4:20
The bible puts us on a trajectory. Back then, they would call it “plant a seed, and see it grow”. Jesus, Paul, and so many others planted a seed and knew, that if people listened and remained teachable, the seed would grow and change man’s thinking and actions.
Paul for example did not talk against slavery. He had a chance when writing to Philemon about Onesimus. Onesimus was Philemon’s slave that ran, went to Rome, met Paul, met Jesus, and now Paul sent him back.
Paul did not tell Philemon to set Onesimus free. He told him to be a good master, as they were brothers in Christ now.
This verse, and others in Ephesians, where Paul tells slaves to work hard and serve well, were taken by many, especially in the southern states of the US, to justify slavery as biblical, misunderstanding the bible fundamentally (and I am using this with a smile).
What did Paul do? When before, slavery in the Greek and Roman culture was brutal, he put man on a trajectory, putting up a signpost with an arrow pointing into the right direction. Follow the trajectory and think about it: you are brothers in Christ now.
Eventually, this led some Englishmen and the northern states of the US to the insight that slavery is bad. It has not been eradicated since then, but our viewpoint has changed, and the fight against it is ongoing.
Similarly, Paul seems to have been an opponent of women’s lib. But was he? He gave us, again, a trajectory. Or better, two curves coming together and narrowing down on a common goal. In Ephesus, a city ruled by a goddess and her female temple harlots, manipulating men with “holy” sex, he set women clear boarders: do not rule over your husbands. In Corinth, he encouraged women to have words and prophecy, but not to go overboard.
He talked into a cultural setting, again pointing in the direction we have to go. Man and woman of same value, different tasks, same rights.
He even proclaimed boldly: there is no more man or woman, Jew or Greek. We are all one new man.
A seed that needed time to produce fruit.
The three problems
Still today, people want to go back to the word-by-word interpretation of the bible, not understanding the idea of the trajectory. It is written becomes a weapon of keeping others down, of preventing progress, even of growing deeper with the Lord.
On the other hand, people overshoot. Letting go of very valid principles, they take things too far.
And people use the trajectory on things that are not negotiable. Forgiveness and love do not give one a free pass for sin.
We need the Holy Spirit to find out, what in the bible follows a trajectory, what is a straight line, and what is a fix point of reference.
The big picture
Even humanity as a whole has been set on a trajectory.
God created man, fully aware of the risk and the 100% probability of the fall. He needed it to allow for free will, the basic prerequisite of love. But he had planted a seed. The first thing we see the next generation after Adam and Eve do is worship the Lord. (And then, one kills the other, granted. A tree does not bear fruit over night, does it?)
God promised that he would never leave us alone. And just as Paul tells us that one plants, the other waters, and somebody will harvest, God does it all.
He planted a seed of wisdom into man’s heart: that he, God, had created everything. That he held everything together. And that he wanted a personal relationship with them. Sin was a problem, but he showed them that he was still there for them.
Within creation, God showed them that duality had to work together to become one. Heavens and earth, water and dry land, man and woman. To become one again. God even before the fall gave them examples for his great plan: two become one.
Within the first seven generations, he showed them his plan of redemption. The names of the people leading up to Noah mean:
Man is appointed to be mortal and sorrowful. But the merciful Lord will descend, dedicated that His death shall bring the despairing comfort.
The seed of God being the creator and sustainer of everything was watered with understanding, with a teachable heart. That is maybe why God had to wait from Noah until he found Abraham before he could plant some more wisdom: that he was a generational God. He reassured Abraham of the fact that he wanted to have a personal relationship. He told him that he was his provider. And again, he showed him his plan: to sacrifice his son for mankind, and to make a big people out of him.
Through Moses, God gave the law to the people. The law was given as a guide, a servant, to lead the people to the teacher, to God. The law was also given so that people understood that they could not do it on their own. No man has the power to keep the law.
In David, God gave the people an example on how to overcome their weakness and the limitations of the law: with a deep personal, trusting relationship with God.
In all this, God gave his people time to understand and thus to get to know him better. Know him more intimately. Just as Abraham knew his wife. In the biblical sense. To become one flesh.
The last ingredient
Yet, there was one layer missing. So far, the people mostly knew God as perfectly just, and had a glimpse of his love.
Along came Jesus. He showed them how the Father really was. Perfectly just and perfect love.
Start with wisdom. Add understanding and more wisdom. And get to know Him better and better. Until we reach the goal: to become one.
First the natural, then the spiritual. The bible starts with becoming one flesh.
The great trajectory: to become one spirit.
Are you on the trajectory?