Jesus, Truth and Freedom: A Contextualization from John 8:30-37

Jesus found himself in a debate with religious and political leaders after standing with a woman whose life was being used to prove a political point. We often call her “the woman caught in adultery.” I won’t get into whether or not that is fair description, but here is how the debate eventually plays out for Jesus in John 8:30-37.

30 As he was saying these things, many believed in him.
31 Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you continue in my word, you really are my disciples. 32 You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
33 “We are descendants of Abraham,” they answered him, “and we have never been enslaved to anyone. How can you say, ‘You will become free’?”
34 Jesus responded, “Truly I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin. 35 A slave does not remain in the household forever, but a son does remain forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you really will be free. 37 I know you are descendants of Abraham, but you are trying to kill me because my word has no place among you.

The religious and political leaders (it was one and the same for them) we caught up in the ideology of their theology. We aren’t always much different from them. So sometimes we need a different reading of the text. I wrote this back in 2016 so to be read often during a series we called, “The Politics of Truth.” It was a series the shepherds requested I preach. Here is the contextualization of John 8:30-37 I wrote in order that we might here like they would have heard it, but in our time and place.

Here is a contextualization I wrote back in 2016 to be read often during a series with WCC.

“As He was saying these things, many believed in Him. So Jesus said to the Christians living in the USA who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, you really are My disciples. You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

“As He was saying these things, many believed in Him. So Jesus said to the Christians living in the USA who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, you really are My disciples. You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

“We are descendants of democracy,” they answered Him, “and we live in the land of the free and the home of the brave. We aren’t enslaved to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will become free’?”

Jesus responded, “I assure you: Everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin. A slave does not remain in the household forever, but a son does remain forever. Therefore, if the Son sets you free, you really will be free.

“I know you are descendants of democracy, but you are trying to explain my teachings away because My word is not welcome among you.”

We have to do our best to resist our tendencies to get our theology confused with our ideology. It is hard for all of us. It is hard for me. But one of the best ways we resist this tendency is to submit our ideology to the greatest command and choose to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, and treat them as we want to be treated.

But we have to do this in concrete particular ways. Loving our neighbor has to be practical and specific, and do whatever it requires to be faithful, by the Spirit of the Spirit working in us.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Idols

If there is one thing I’ve learned (and am learning) in two decades of vocational ministry is that you don’t reason someone out of idolatry. There may be some who are beginning to see the fragility and futility of their idol and may awaken. But beyond that, to try and reason with someone whose grip is tightened to their idol will result in defensiveness and justification accompanied with forms of sentimentality, like “thoughts and prayers.”

So press on in a different way, my friends. Hold conversations with those who want to converse. Engage those whose hearts are broken in such a way that it opens them to critically engaging their faith, and even the idolatry of their ideology, because of the tragedy, not in response to the tragedy. There’s a difference.

And in the end, talking will get us no where. Actionable efforts that follow our prayers will.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Idolatry

In the Hebrew Scriptures, injustice always follows idolatry, because idols disable love for neighbors. And lack of neighborly love leads to injustice.

Violence is a form of injustice performed toward a neighbor.

Violence, in all its forms, is a theological concern.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Groceries

We say the danger is CRT.
What about shopping for groceries?
What about denying what we see?
White supremacy.

Father Whiteness says, “You’re being political.”
Lady Wisdom says “You’re being insensible.”
Creator God says, “This is theological.”
White supremacy.

Why all the defensiveness?
Why the lack of pensiveness?
Where is Jesus is all of this?
White supremacy.

White bullets continue to fly.
Black neighbors continue to die.
White obstinance still denies
White supremacy.

Written May 16, 2022, reflecting on the 18 year old man motivated by self-proclaimed white supremacy who shot and killed 10 people in Buffalo, New York, targeting a grocery story in the heart of a predominately Black community.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Mother’s Peace Day — Original Intent (corrected post)

The following proclamation (1870) was written by Julia Ward Howe. She was the woman who organized for the first “Mother’s Day,” originally called, “Mother’s Peace Day.” Julia was a poet, activist and abolitionist, who was moved to write and organize after witnessing the carnage of civil war. In origin, Mother’s Peace Day was a protest of peace in a world committed to tearing families apart due to war.

In 1907, Anna Jarvis, of Philadelphia, began the campaign to have Mother’s Peace Day become Mother’s Day to be recognized as a national holiday. It was officially recognized in 1914 as “public expression of our love and reverence for all mothers.”

Now it’s about hallmark cards and sentimentality.

But Julia Ward Rowe’s words still speak. Read it. Capture the original spirit of the day.

“Arise, then… women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts,
whether our baptism be that of water or of tears!
Say firmly:
We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies.
Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage,
for caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country
to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.

From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own.
It says: Disarm, Disarm!
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.
Blood does not wipe out dishonor,
nor violence vindicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
at the summons of war,
let women now leave all that may be left of home
for a great and earnest day of council.

Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them then solemnly take council with each other as to the means
whereby the great human family can live in peace,
each bearing after his own kind the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
but of God.

In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask
that a general congress of women, without limit of nationality,
may be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient,
and at the earliest period consistent with its objects,
to promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
the amicable settlement of international questions,
the great and general interests of peace.“

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment