“Pinky, are you pondering what I’m pondering?”
“I think so, Brain, but Lederhosen won’t stretch that far.”
The cartoon Animaniacs got a lot of mileage out of this joke. The two mice would find themselves in a pickle of one sort or another. Brain, the genius, would intuit a solution and ask his famous question. Pinky, the dolt, would take him out of context and say something so ridiculous that the joke never got old.
The joke isn’t funny, though, when Christians live it out in their Bible study.
Do you know what Jesus was talking about when he said, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am among them” (Matt 18:20, ESV)? Hint: it wasn’t about prayer groups. If you pray alone, Jesus is still with you (Matt 6:6, 28:20). Observe the context in Matt 18:15-20.
Who was God assuring when he said, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer 29:11)? Hint: it wasn’t Christians who were struggling with a big decision. Observe the context in Jer 29:1-3.
What did Paul intend by his infamous “Love chapter” in 1 Corinthians 13:1-13? Hint: it was a rebuke, not a Hallmark card. Observe the context in 1 Cor 11:17; 12:31b; 14:20, 40.
Every Bible passage has a context. If we lift individual verses from their context, we endanger interpretation. At best, we might still hit on biblical truth; we just look foolish to the watching world when they see that a passage doesn’t mean what we think it means. At worst, we run into error, heresy, or unbelief, or we lead others into those things. Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons use the Bible to support their doctrines, too.