Read 1 Corinthians 13 here.
To this point I have restricted my blog to discussing my sermons and passages my sermons discuss. However, when listening to Barack Obama’s inauguration address I was interested to hear him quote from the Bible early in his speech.
“On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics. We remain a young nation. But in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift...”
I am not seeking to sound partisan, or critical of his speech in general, as it expressed many admirable ideals. I’m also not seeking to start a political slanging match. However, I question why he found it necessary to quote Scripture and to take it so dramatically out of context. He could quite easily have said, “It’s time for America to grow up.” without making it sound like the apostle Paul is telling America to “grow up”. Then again, maybe I just missed his point.
The actual Bible verse (1 Cor. 13:11) comes at the end of the Bible’s famous exhortation to love. But it also comes in the context of a comparision between “love” and “prophecies and tongues”. Surely a sticky theological issue that our new president didn’t intend to solve in his first 5 minutes in office.
“Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! But when full understanding comes, these partial things will become useless. When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. ” 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 NLT
I’m not saying that Obama’s overall point was not valid, but that quoting Scripture out of context hardly strengthens his argument. He does, however, provide a good lesson to all of us to consider the context of a familiar verse before mis-quoting God’s Word. Just as most of us don’t like being quoted out of context, God at least demands that much respect.
Do you remember other occasions when you’ve heard Scripture quoted in strange contexts, eg. politicians, movies, sports, etc.? OR, Do you disagree with my understanding of how/why he quoted this verse?