Monday, December 23, 2019

Standing in the truth: John 8:44

One day, Jesus was rebuking those who claimed to be the dependents of Abraham while, at the same time, seeking to kill him, one who spoke truth to them, something which “Abraham did not do.” (John 8:40) Instead of having Abraham as their father, Jesus said that they were of their “father the devil.” (John 8:44) Jesus goes on to describe the devil as being one who “does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him.” (John 8:44) Here, what Jesus did not say is just as important as what he did say. Jesus did not say that the devil did not know the truth, nor that he did not believe the truth, but that he did not stand in the truth. In fact, Jesus uses the imperfect tense of the verb that refers to a past continuous action. Literally, Jesus said that the devil “was not standing in the truth.”

We sometimes hear people saying that they are “standing on the truth,” referring to some promise that they are trusting in. However, to stand in the truth is more than merely hoping for some promise to be fulfilled. It involves ordering our lives according to the truth, making the truth the foundation of our lives, and the wellspring of our every thought and action. We are not to stand upon the truth, rather, we are to stand in the truth. This represents a continuous and consistent standing in, and acting upon, the truth of God. To those who are willing to do so, to stand in the truth, Jesus promises, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:31-32)

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Collateral Damage: John 8:7

There is a story in the book of John, where the Scribes and the Pharisees brought to Jesus a woman who had been caught in the very act of adultery. In asking Jesus what was to be done with her, they were hoping to trap Jesus into saying something contrary to the Law of Moses. Jesus, at first, refused to answer and, instead, stooped down and began to write on the ground. However, as they persisted in their demand for some response, Jesus stood up and said, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone...” (John 8:7) This is how this verse is typically remembered and quoted. However, in Greek it reads a bit different. Translating the Greek sentence structure more literally, this passage reads, “He who is without sin among you, the first at her to throw a stone.” (NASB Greek Interlinear). Jesus command to the one without sin was not that they should be the first to cast a stone, but that they should be the first to cast a stone “at her.”

Oftentimes, in the midst of our anger, judgment, and sin, we lose sight of the people who bear the weight of our sins and who are harmed by our unrighteousness. Peter Scazzero, in his book, The Emotionally Healthy Leader, refers to this as “our shadow.” Our shadow represents the effect our lives have on others. Our attitude, judgments, and behaviors affect others in ways we often don’t see or understand, either for good or for evil. In this story, the scribes and Pharisees, in their rush to condemn Jesus, failed to see the collateral damage their judgmental spirit was causing on the people around them. Their hatred of Jesus blinded their eyes to “her.” The same is often true of us. In our self-righteousness, we fail to see those we are hurting; we fail to see “her.” Jesus wants us to open our eyes, to see our shadow, and to consider the influence and impact our lives, emotions, and behaviors are having on the people around us. If we can do this, then maybe we will become more careful in our own lives; maybe we will learn how to use our shadow for good rather than evil.