by Alethea McGavran on 06/15/16
Allow me to take a minute to share a really good way to use a quote from the Bible. Take a look at lectio divina, a personal meditation that invites the reader to absorb a passage of scripture, contemplate it, read it again, contemplate further, grasping the word or phrase that resonates with you, continuing to pray over it. From this practice, we can take insight from our holy books and find a way to absorb it into our hearts for use in our personal lives, and our daily struggles.
Proof texting on the other hand, takes a verse, or a fragment of a verse, out of it's holy setting to instead wield it as proof of righteousness in someone's personal convictions. You can avoid it by reading the whole story, trying to understand the context of the setting and the nature of the message, and then deciding if that quote really offers a glimpse of the message from the story, which you can share with your readers. Proof texting differs from lectio divina in that it is an outward facing message, meant to be used at others, instead of within ourselves.
Judge not, lest ye be judged - Matthew 7:1 KJV is an interesting example of this. I see it used most often as a threat that the reader or listener will be judged by others for being judgmental or hypocritical themselves. That seems like circular logic to me. Instead, if we embrace the passage and take the message personally, perhaps we can embark on a journey of self-exploration, looking for the way we may inadvertently judge others, without even realizing it.
That's the difference, and it's huge.
Why is this relevant to web ministry? Sometimes it's called cherry-picking or quote mining, it gets used as click bait. We do it to other texts and to people as well, and it's almost always bad.
When you ask for, or go looking for, personal information about a group or an individual, what are your reasons? Do you seek to understand out of compassion or are you looking for details to confirm a belief you already hold? Are you looking for ways to correct your own soul or to correct others? I often counsel that we only ask questions for two reasons: curiosity and compassion. Sometimes it's both, often it's one or the other. Be honest when you ask someone to share their story with you. Let them decide if they want to engage, knowing how you intend to apply that information.
How we interact, how we ask others to confide in us, how we use publicly accessible information, tells the world about how we choose to be viewed as well. If you use a quote that sounds good, but the source doesn't back you up, you may be viewed as untrustworthy. If that source is a living breathing person, they may rightly feel manipulated and refuse to share with you again.
Choose carefully between what resonates with your audience so you can celebrate their experiences, and what resonates with your own soul so you can keep it there and grow from it. Your web presence is never so small or so private that you should risk someone else's story in a way that does not honor them.