Your Texts and Your Bible

Imagine someone with access to all of the texts you have ever written. They’ve gathered them together and bound them into a book which they go around sharing with others. Only they rarely ever read a complete text — instead, they usually just quote a few sentences here and there. The quotations are accurate, but no attempt is made to set the context in which they were written. So while what they’re sharing with other people are your words, they just don’t necessarily come across with the meaning that you intended when you originally wrote them.

How would you be with that? How well would someone get to know you through hearing quotes of your texts?

Okay, that’s a crazy scenario, right? While no one would think of doing something like that, how many people approach the Scriptures in this manner?

The answer is that almost all of us start this way. We learn a story like the Good Samaritan and pay little or no attention to why Jesus told this story (Luke 15:1-2), or what purpose Luke might have had in including it in his gospel. That’s understandable. And the truth is, standing alone, the story is a rich one with lots of spiritual truths and applications for us.

Yet divorcing the story from its context is not without consequences. It’s like taking a tree out of the soil — although it’s still a tree and can still provide wood, and possibly fruit and shade (for a limited time), it is not rooted and cannot be appreciated or enjoyed to its fullest extent.

As we grow and mature, we must stop treating the Bible like a huge data base where we extract or label verses with no regard to the context in which they occur. This is exactly the approach taken by unbelievers who respond to the biblical injunction against same gender unions by arguing the the Bible also says children disobeying their parents should be stoned. Right. But how can we expect them to honor context if we don’t model it for them?

I heard a preacher who regularly conducts seminars on teaching others the Bible, repeatedly tell his audience that he read through the New Testament two times each month and then proceeds to take verse after verse out of context and distort their meaning. He was reading twenty-seven different books, yet treating them like a giant collection of unrelated verses that could arbitrarily be cut and pasted.

You wouldn’t treat your texts like that!

Opening the Bible


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