“He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.” (John 8:23, ESV)
The eight chapter of John applies to us very nicely, in my opinion. It begins with the religious leaders of the day (the self-proclaimed righteous) bringing a woman to Jesus for judgment. He is told that this woman has been caught in adultery. Now they pose a question to Jesus which none of them could possibly answer. This is not because they wanted to know the truth, but because they knew there were only two ways he could answer, and in their thinking, either answer would be wrong.
So, they present the following dilemma to the Lord of heaven and earth: The Law of Moses required that a woman caught in adultery must be stoned (their phasing of the Law, not God’s). So if Jesus refuses to stone her he is supposedly in violation of God’s Law. However, if he does stone her, he is in violation of Roman law. Aha! They’ve got him!
The first flaw with their trap is a legal one. The Law in Deuteronomy and Leviticus demands that the man and the woman who commit adultery together must die (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:20-24). In this accusation, where is the man? Jesus need not do anything without both defendants. Furthermore, we only have the Pharisees word that she was an adulterous woman but there are no legally required two witnesses. Without knowing it (though they should have) the testers have trapped themselves as not really knowing or applying the Law correctly.
Yet Jesus is not one to let a learning moment go by unanswered. Neither does he fall into a debate with those who have already convinced themselves that they are right. So, Jesus drives home his point silently. He bends down and writes on the ground with his finger. No speculation here is warranted. If God wanted us to know what Jesus wrote, it would have been recorded. Whatever it was, the Pharisees demand an answer and continue to badger him with repeating the question over and over.
Thus, Jesus stands back up and gives an answer that no one, not even the woman expected, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” Ouch! Not at all what the expected or wanted to hear. Another human foolish testing of God fails. After they all leave, Jesus graciously addresses the woman and gives her forgiveness. Though I am sure the Pharisees didn’t learn their lesson, I believe she learned hers. It’s what Jesus did repeatedly, cast down the proud and lift up the humble.
But that is only the beginning of the chapter, and though I will not spend time on everything worthy of reflection and study, later Jesus addressed the Jews who had heard him teach and believed in him. “So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”” (John 8:31–32, ESV)
I have heard the last phrase repeated often in religious and non-religious circles. “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” I first want to note that I lose patience with those who deny God and Christ and who repeatedly quote him as if all of a sudden they believe. Please stop it.
However, those who confess they believe do something I consider far worse. In the first case, unbelievers only reveal their duplicity and hypocrisy. But believers steal a phrase out of context to justify something they want to be true, even if it is not. The freedom of truth is not unconditional. Jesus gives two conditions to knowing the truth: 1) “If you abide in my word,” and 2) you are my disciples.
None of us can or do know truth apart from the Word of God. While Jesus walked this earth, the Word of God included the Scriptures (Old Testament) and himself! (John 1:1) Now, the Word which is Christ is recorded and kept for us today in the New Testament. The easiest way of stating this is, if you want to know truth, you have to know all of God’s word.
The objection I hear to this is that there are many brilliant people who know much about the world through science, math, medicine, and more, who do not believe in the Bible, God, or Christ. You have no argument with me. God has revealed himself in his word from the very beginning: “And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.” (Genesis 1:3, ESV) The sciences in their purest form are the study of this world that God created. But the recognition of God through the sciences is another matter altogether. Not only can it be done, but it should be done if one is seeking truth.
“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:19–20, ESV) Paul doesn’t hedge about the truth, “Professing to be wise, they became fools.” Sounds a lot like the Pharisees in John 8.
Any discipline that does not reveal God and Christ is not the fault of the truth but of the one practicing the discipline with a presupposed believe that there is no God or Christ. This is the problem with all public education and in most universities. They start with a denial of God and then claim to be interested in truth. This is in itself a lie.
The second qualification to truth must therefore be emphasized, “you are truly my disciples.” Abiding in the the word means a constant relationship of word to life, and this is what defines being a disciple. A disciple is a follower, one committed to someone or something.
The issue I have with many social justice issues in general and Black Lives Matters in particular is that they are dishonest attempts to find and apply truth. They are dishonest in that they begin with a position that is prejudicial against all other positions. They are dishonest because they are not open to discussion or debate about the idea or the facts used to make their version of the truth win out. They are dishonest because, knowing they do not have truth on their side, they abandon the truth and fall into the fallacy of name calling destroying their opponents and the destruction of their property and lives.
In America today, it is nearly impossible to have intelligent discussions about abortion, traditional marriage, real discrimination, racism, politics and a whole lot more. It is impossible because one side tends to abandon reason, debate, and logic and defer to outbursts, shouting, overbearing accusations, and more. A most obvious example is the failure of our universities which are supposed to be safe havens for seeking and testing truth but have become impenetrable fortresses of one position and one position only. If you disagree with the agenda, there is no room for debate. Worse, if you are on the wrong side, you are not even free to speak.
Many are upset by the destruction of statues, monuments, etc. honoring people who were instrumental in founding and running America. Such destruction is only a symptom of the real problem: they have already destroyed the principles of government established by the greatest of our fore-fathers.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…” (The Declaration of Independence)
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” (The Constitution of the United States of America)
“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
“Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
“But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” Abraham Lincoln~November 19, 1863
We who are of this world will never be able to resolve the issues that face us until we become disciples of he who is from above. Peace only comes from the Prince of Peace.