You know, people are free to believe all kinds of stuff. It’s a free country. We all have a certain amount of education. We all have our own life experiences to confirm what we want to believe is true.
For Christians in our country, we have as many church smorgasbord options as you can find at a Golden Corral. We can pick and choose which preachers we like…which commentaries we want to read…which authors we consider superior…which bloggers we want to bow to.
On top of that, we all have our own copies of the Bible. I can interpret it for myself. I can come to my own conclusions. I can decide which parts to emphasize and which parts to soften. And which parts to completely ignore. I can even use the Bible to defend my own opinions…even if the Bible doesn’t exactly say what I want it to say.
It’s almost as if I can mold the Bible in my own philosophical and ideological image. Yikes.
And so can you.
Free will is a tough thing. It is a sacred privilege. It also carries massive responsibility…with eternal consequences. We need to tread carefully. Especially when we are studying the Bible.
One of the mistakes we are prone to make (either because of inexperience or laziness) is taking Bible statements out of context and then drawing skewed or completely wrong conclusions. Here are a few examples:
Passage: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13
Lazy conclusion: Christ will give me the strength to do anything I set my mind to do. This is a favorite verse of athletes to use as motivation in their competitive pursuits.
Context: Because we know the secret of being content in any and every situation, we can be confident that Jesus will give us the strength to face any struggle or circumstance, no matter how difficult. IMO.
Passage: “You will always have the poor with you.” Matthew 26:11
Lazy conclusion: Since we will always have poor people, poverty will never be erased. This passage is used to undermine efforts to prioritize the elimination of poverty by the church and humanitarian organizations.
Context: Jesus was actually quoting from Deuteronomy 15, and it says quite the opposite. IMO. “There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.” Deuteronomy 15:11
Passage: “If you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.” Luke 22:36
Lazy conclusion: For some, these words of Jesus (delivered to his disciples the night He was arrested by the Roman guards) are not just permission for Christians to own guns and other weapons for self-defense, but actually a command to do so.
Context: In the following verse (37), Jesus explains that there was an Old Testament prophesy stating the Messiah would be “counted among the lawless and thieves”, and he wanted to make sure this prophesy came to pass by having his disciples have swords. The passage has nothing to do with self-defense. IMO.
Passage: “Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 6:19
Lazy conclusion: Christians love to use this verse to condemn the use of drugs, poor eating habits, lack of exercise, cigarette smoking and the drinking of alcohol…and use it to promote healthy lifestyles.
Context: Specifically, the context is about sexual sin. The general teaching is that Christ died to redeem us back to God. Therefore, we belong to God…completely and totally…and He has taken up residence inside of us. We are his temple, his dwelling place. IMO.
This list could go on and on.
Be diligent in your study. Be careful in your interpretations. Be slow to speak. Be quick to listen. Be faithful to the text.
And beware of being snookered.