What if there were verses that were really true, historical, God-breathed, and others that snuck in there under the radar, but don’t really belong?
Of course, plenty of people already think that is the reality, that pieces or chunks of the Bible aren’t really reliable. I don’t see an end in sight to the inerrancy debate. I have been clung to inerrancy and written about my definition of what it means to be inerrant here before.
But today, I am not so sure of myself.
You see, I think I found a mistake in my Bible.
I think I found a mistake. It didn’t take much investigation, or a magnifying glass, or parsing words in their original language. It was pretty easy actually. The offending verse comes from Jesus’ own mouth. I am convinced that Jesus had to have been wrong,
What mistake could I have possibly found that would send my whole view of scripture into a tailspin?
The Verse Where Jesus is Wrong
The offending verse comes in John 13:35. Jesus says to his twelve friends:
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
Of course, we easily extend that verse’s meaning to all of us, every follower of Jesus, and the sentiment should still be the same. All followers of Jesus will be known for their love of others.
Was Jesus serious? Was he speaking tongue-in-cheek and I’m not supposed to be taking him literally here? Because it appears to me that Jesus is speaking pretty straight-faced. And it appears to me that he was just dead wrong. Maybe Jesus was being a little naive. Maybe he had a bad connection with the Holy Spirit that day. Maybe John was just mistaken in his memory. I don’t know what happened, but all I know is that the world around us provides incontrovertible proof of that verse’s extreme errancy.
They Will Know We Are Christians Because We Tell Them
Of course, I’m stretching the truth a bit when I call that verse an “error.” Maybe we can say the verse was intended to be true.
The funny thing is that Christians try to make themselves known in a lot of ways. We try to bear our faith out in the clothing we wear. Sometimes that comes in the form of funny Jesus slogans on T-shirts. Sometimes, it shows up as “modesty” debates among the ladies. Christians try to make themselves known with their cars – little fish and bumper stickers that give tailgaiters a dose of heavenly wisdom.
Christians try to be known by their ability to defend their faith, so people won’t think we’re a bunch of illiterate hayseeds.
Christians try to be known by how they vote. We love to make ourselves a voting block that politicians can pander to, making short-lived promises.
Christians try to be known by all the things they oppose. People rarely wonder what Christians think of any public issue.
Christians try to make themselves known by the church they go to or the standards they hold for themselves.
And Christians try to be known by their ability to tell people about their faith.
And yet, Jesus spelled it out, how his followers would be known. And for 2,000 years, we have tried to find a way around Jesus’ words. We’ve tried to find a shortcut – some way to make ourselves known without actually having to love others.
A T-Shirt is Not a Testimony
That is why we are known for everything except our love.
Here’s the thing about the Bible and inerrancy. The Bible says a lot of crazy things. It says that God died. That’s nuts.
But non-Christians aren’t reading the Bible, much less the crazy parts of it. Instead, they are watching us. They see how we love or don’t love others. They see the fruit we bear or don’t bear. They see how our lives and our words and our love reflects or doesn’t reflect Christ. They don’t care about our T-shirts, our bumper stickers, or our church attendance.
You see, in many ways, perhaps the most important ways, the Bible is only as inerrant as we make it. Jesus said his followers would be known for their love. It’s up to you and I whether those words are true and trustworthy. Paul describes the fruits that a Christian will bear in his life. Those verses are only as true as we live them out. It is not our scholars or our studies, but our lives that prove the Bible to be true or untrue, errant or inerrant. When we talk about inerrancy, we are usually talking about something like Genesis or Deuteronomy, when we ought to be talking about John 13:35.
A t-shirt is not a testimony. A life of love is.
What do you say? Is the inerrancy of scripture proven by us and not by scholars?