Reflection on John 8.31-42 (Lent)

Jesus said: If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples.

In order that society might function in an orderly way we are all required to live by a set of rules. The rules that govern our country are formulated and brought into force by the group of representatives we elect to form our parliament. This process of delegating the authority to regulate our lives has been in force for centuries. As a system of government its origins are not that clear-cut. It took many years for us to finally take the responsibility of decision-making out of the hands of just one person, a person whose authority was based upon accident of birth rather than any discernible gift for leading others. Of course, our system of parliamentary democracy is flawed, but there is no human-based system that will ever achieve the perfection we would like to see.

In today’s reading Jesus speaks of a different way of living, a way that is laid out for us in scripture. This way of organising and regulating our daily lives is not based on human wisdom, but rather on the wisdom of God. Jesus makes it clear that if we are to be his true disciples (followers) we must not only read the word of God, but we must live according to its every word. This is not easy. As our society grows and evolves issues will arise that seem to bring the disciples of Christ into direct conflict with the rules and regulations laid down by our secular leaders. It is at these times that we must decide whether to stand firm or to compromise, to be faithful disciples or to fit in with the crowd.

When we bend or break the laws of our country there is an obvious system of checks and balances that will correct, or even punish, our poor decisions. There is a legal system that may call us to account for breaking the law and thus diminishing the lives of those amongst whom we live. When we bend or break the laws laid down in scripture there is no such obvious recourse to judgement and punishment, but that does not mean that it is not there.

Today, as in all times, those who profess a faith in Jesus Christ are in a state of constant temptation. There is a constant temptation to water down the example and the teachings of Jesus. Theologians offer us ‘new’ ways of reading and interpreting the word of God. These ‘new’ ways usually involve us in the process of making scripture fit the latest trends and fads in social engineering. But … Jesus makes it clear that we must stand firm.

The word ‘sin’ does not have much traction in our daily lives in the 21st century. We do not view our disobedience as sin, but rather as our using scripture to justify the convenient version of Christianity we create for ourselves. However, Jesus makes it clear that if we are to inherit the eternal life he came to give us we must honour our side of the deal … we must continue in the word. This is the challenge that faces us today and every day. Let us pray for the strength to stand firm in the word and resist the many calls upon us to compromise, to manipulate … to sin.