1When Jesus had finished saying all this to the people, he returned to Capernaum. 2 At that time the highly valued slave of a Roman officer was sick and near death. 3 When the officer heard about Jesus, he sent some respected Jewish elders to ask him to come and heal his slave. 4 So they earnestly begged Jesus to help the man. “If anyone deserves your help, he does,” they said, 5 “for he loves the Jewish people and even built a synagogue for us.”
6 So Jesus went with them. But just before they arrived at the house, the officer sent some friends to say, “Lord, don’t trouble yourself by coming to my home, for I am not worthy of such an honor. 7 I am not even worthy to come and meet you. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed. 8 I know this because I am under the authority of my superior officers, and I have authority over my soldiers. I only need to say, ‘Go,’ and they go, or ‘Come,’ and they come. And if I say to my slaves, ‘Do this,’ they do it.”
9 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed. Turning to the crowd that was following him, he said, “I tell you, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel!” 10 And when the officer’s friends returned to his house, they found the slave completely healed.
Dear God, I was at a church yesterday that emphasized the inerrancy of scripture. And while I do believe that you speak to me through every passage of scripture and that you inspired it and provided it to us, the word inerrancy can have a lot of meanings.
For example, which version of scripture is inerrant? Which translation? Does it have to be in the original tongue of Hebrew or Greek (depending on the book) to be inerrant? If English translations are allowed, does it have to be King James, NIV, or NASB (1995 or the updated one)? Does The Message count?
Another example is passages like this. It can be inferred from this passage that Jesus sanctions slavery because he seemingly did not do anything to rebuke this centurion for having a slave. In fact, he complimented him and rewarded him. Now, I don’t believe that Jesus supported or continues to support slavery, but it is interesting that he seemingly chose to ignore the practice and didn’t make it part of his agenda.
Another example is biblical characters seemingly doing the wrong thing, but never being corrected on it. So does that make their behavior acceptable? I’m thinking about Samson. You used him when there was seemingly nothing redeemable about his behavior. Jacob was a scoundrel and much of his behavior was never addressed. Peter spearheaded naming Mathias an apostle when it was Paul you appear to have designated as Judas’s replacement.
No, I think we back ourselves into a narrow-minded corner if we insist that each word is absolutely inerrant. However, I do think you speak to me through each and every story. Each and every prophecy–whether I understand it or not. I know I’m in theologically dicey territory here, and I probably don’t have enough theological education to credibly make these arguments, but I cannot help but think that clinging to a concept like inerrancy of scripture is an intellectually lazy thing to do. And I feel like I can say that because I used to hold to that concept, although I had never bothered to define it. But studying scripture and thinking and praying through these things with you does mold me into the man you are continuously transforming me into being.
Father, Rich Mullins once said, “I don’t read scripture to know truth. I read it to know God.” You have given us the most peculiar of manuals by which we are to learn about you and live our lives. It is full of stories–mainly stories–mixed in with a few directives here at there. And I think the stories are great at teaching me. But I do need your Holy Spirit to fill in the gaps. And in terms of this story, I need you to show me what it is you have for me to focus on. Jesus wasn’t here to address slavery, but you’ve put it on others to address it over the millennia. Going back to Nehemiah, you didn’t put it on anyone else’s heart to rebuild Jerusalem, but you inspired a man who was in a unique position to address it. So help me to know, today, what you would have me do to 1.) refine myself into being the man you need me to be, and 2.) do what you need me to do so that your kingdom might come and your will will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
In Jesus’s name I pray,