Last night during some conversation around the dinner table, I was told that I was getting on another soap box. I believe I actually have a pantry full of them. But this particular one revolved around the misuse of scripture. I like to think about it this way. Politicians, professional speakers, writers, journalists…all of these people hate to be taken out of context regarding something they said or wrote. It can completely skew someone’s ideological stances or convictions. You can even make someone out to be a liar or a hypocrite if you simply take pieces of what they said and interpret them however you want to. Documentary film makers have amassed wealth over this very thing. Not only that, but you can be sued for slander or libel if you misquote someone and it is considered damaging to their character or credibility. And yet we do this all the time to someone that most of us consider to be rather important…God.
We take his words out of context all the time and use them however we see fit. There are entire doctrines that are sometimes composed on singular verses out of scripture that just don’t make sense. And why don’t they make sense? Because they are not measured against the whole. We like to call this canonical context. In other words, the way in which we interpret particular passages of scripture must make sense with the entire story the canon of scripture is telling. If it doesn’t make sense in view of the canon, we go back, look more closely and align/rethink the interpretation within the guise of the whole of scripture. Now this also places a greater burden on the interpretation of scripture in general. One must be familiar with the entire canonical story of God in order to put passages into context. And this is an ongoing assignment. The Bible is the progressive revelation of a God who creates, redeems his creation through the person of Jesus Christ and sustains them the work of His Spirit. And this story is constantly unfolding through scripture and interpretation. That is why, as disciples of Christ, we continue to study the story and commit it to heart and life. Only then will we be able to place verses and passages in context of the whole.
So the next time you begin to pick up scripture and wield it as a weapon for defending a practice or offending an enemy take the following to heart: “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” – Hebrews 4:12-13. And let us be conscientious of how we use the words of God…after all it is His story and ultimately His words.