“Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table’? Would you not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’?" (Luke 17:7-8)
This passage is a prime example of why fundamentalist interpretations of Scripture are not only false, but can even be sinful. It was a misguided fundamentalist interpretation that used these words of Jesus to condone and even encourage slavery. What a shame!
Remember our theology. While on earth, Jesus was both fully human and fully divine. While Jesus was without sin, he remained fully human. Included in being fully human, Jesus remained a product of his environment. He gave examples his audience in antiquity could relate to in their specific time and place. If Jesus returned today, he would certainly not use slave imagery to make his larger point.
Reading and responding to the Bible is dangerous business. Historically speaking, the Bible has been a weapon nearly as often as it has been a guide to the Divine. Yet, those of us who try hard to remain culturally appropriate, should not shy away from the somewhat embarrassing aspects of the Bible. Rather than ignore them, these types of passages can provide wonderful occasions for reflection, discussion, and spiritual growth.
Today, pray for the Christian community to continually work to remain respectful and responsible in the way we think about our brothers and sisters in our community and around the world. Words and descriptions have power. Being sensitive to the issues and concerns that divide us is a huge step in finding reconciliation. Pray for God to unite us as a people. Division is easy, while unity takes hard work and a patient spirit. It also requires intelligent and meaningful language, creatively used, to bring lasting unity.