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26 July 2017

John 7:14-31 — On tolerance and discernment

The words of Jesus in John’s Gospel have become particularly difficult for us in a multi-faith setting. I suppose we all find ourselves thinking about that dissonance, and navigating our way through it. We all know by now that tolerance, and a deep acceptance of diversity, are the only ways we have to share cultural and physical space without dangerous conflict. That can leave struggling to know how to express our allegiance to Christ, and Christ’s call for the world’s allegiance to him. 

Academia has words and phrases to describe the so-called ‘meta’ questions around all that. But I’d like this morning to root us in something that remains liveable, then as now.  

Because it seems that they also had, if not worries about diversity and tolerance, a whole slew of its own political issues causing strife. The passage has such an air of tension, of uproar, of menace – the covert made overt in Jesus’ naming of this groundswell view that killing him will return them to peace and order. 

Yet within all that, three words that make deep sense to me, and that I know I can aim to live to. 

V18: the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and there is nothing false in him. (Joh 7:18 NRS) 

V24: Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” (Joh 7:24 NRS) 

V28: You know me  (Joh 7:28 NRS) 

When Jesus says that ‘the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and there is nothing false in him’, you and I and millions of others were able to see, even if just for a moment, past the political turmoil of our setting to the purity of Christ, pointing upstream to the Father. That remains. 

When Jesus tells ‘Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment”, he asks the same of them, and of us, that is true of him. Looking past the hair-splitting around the law, to the purpose of the law, and to the truest good of the person in front of you, is to act with nothing false in us, just like him. Amidst all the endless ideologies and compliances that bombard us, that remains: not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment. If chaplaincy needs a mission statement, that would definitely do it. 

When Jesus says, ‘You know me’, that remains. You know him. We know him. Nothing can be gained by forgetting him amidst all the human turmoil around us.  

There is nothing false in him. You know him. Judge with right judgment. 

May that ground us today and in the weeks ahead. 

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