When I wrote counseling letters for Love In Action, I'd often put down a standard principle and then hunt for a verse or passage from Scripture as substantiation. More than once, I deliberately took Scripture out of context, assuring myself that the Lord understood my reasons. Of course, He did. He knew my desire to minister comfort and encouragement to hurting people, and He knew my desire to submit to the policies of the ministry.
Deep down, I knew that I handled God's Word dishonestly, shaping it to fit an agenda. The awareness nagged at me, despite all my rationalizations and the abundant affirmation my co-workers and superiors gave me.
In the 17 years between leaving the ministry and now (wow--has it really been that long?), the Lord has radically increased my love and respect for His Word, teaching me how to both read and quote it in proper context. Do I do so perfectly? No. As a matter of fact, I'm only beginning to understand how it fits together. But I take pains to make sure any agenda I have conforms to Scripture rather than manipulating Scripture around whatever point I want to make. Any mistakes are honest ones.
If "it takes one to know one," believe me that I can tell the difference between a person who inadvertently misquotes the Bible and someone who wraps it around their program. Perhaps I should exhibit more compassion in the latter instance, but I know that their practice is carefully calculated, especially when those people function as pastors and Bible teachers.
Pastors and Bible teachers, to a much greater degree than correspondence counselors, set the example for handling God's Word accurately and responsibly. Although my past actions required my repentance, those who minister in higher capacities than I did bear an even greater responsibility before God. Let us pray for those who fill our pulpits to present God's Word correctly, but let us refuse to sit under those who distort it for their own purposes.