“That word you keep using, I do not think it means what you think it means.”
I love The Princess Bride. It has just the right balance of swashbuckling action, romantic interest, character development, and clever dialogue to keep me interested and invested every time I watch it.
But that line is one I find myself quoting more than any other. Maybe it is because I am an absolute nerd when it comes to words and their definitions, but it always kills a small piece of my soul when someone uses a word incorrectly.
I’m not talking about using “me” when a person should use the word “I,” as in “Wesley Wildmon and I co-host a podcast you should really listen to.” (See what I did there?)
But I do mean when people use the word “ironic” when something is only “coincidental.” Rain on a wedding day is not ironic. A wedding moved inside due to rain in the forecast only to have the sprinkler system turn on during the vows is ironic.
But it isn’t just common words everyone, including myself, abuses and misuses. We do it with the Bible as well.
It is easy to do. We find a particular verse warming and comforting, memorize it, and pull it out like a warm blanket to wrap ourselves in during a tough situation. We find strength and encouragement from a piece of Scripture and write it down on everything around us.
The problem comes when we attempt to build a theology around the small segment of the Bible while ignoring the context or the full counsel of God’s Word.
Think of how strange that is. The introductory quote is from a movie I enjoy, but you cannot attempt to understand the overall plot of the movie based on it. And if I were to tell you the storyline of the movie, I would probably leave that quote completely out of the summary.
Yet many of us are guilty of doing just that with Scripture.
A recent sermon by my pastor brought this idea to light for me. He wasn’t preaching on this idea, but he discussed Matthew 8:1-4, a story of a man with leprosy coming to Jesus.
Jesus had just finished giving the Sermon on the Mount. Consider how the people must have felt hearing that sermon. They had been told that lusting after a person is the same as committing adultery (Matthew 5:27-30), that they are to love their enemies (Matthew 5:43-44), and that not everyone who thought they followed God on this earth will be known by God in the final judgment (Matthew 7:21-23).
It was after delivering this message that the episode of the leper happens. Jesus just spent a great deal of time explaining how the law of God was more than a list of rules; rather, it dealt with matters of the heart. His listeners were shown how dark their hearts truly were. In light of that, a man who was completely helpless to heal himself, much like they saw themselves at this point, came to Christ with the statement, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean" (Matthew 8:2).
I never read that account in light of the proceeding sermon until my pastor pointed out the importance of its context.
That is the inspiration for a new series on The Stand called “Coffee Cup Doctrine.” The premise is simple: identify a verse or passage of Scripture that is often quoted and applied completely divorced from its context.
Our goal is not to make you stop buying merchandise with Bible verses on it. We love seeing that. However, we want you (and us) to understand what those Scriptures really mean and how they actually apply to our lives.
So join us as we begin this ongoing series titled Coffee Cup Doctrine. Be on the lookout for the first installment that discusses Jeremiah 29:11.
Editor’s Note: The Coffee Cup Doctrine series originally began running on EngageMagazine.net in June 2017.