John 8 is a challenging chapter. It consists of a series of challenges from the Jews to Jesus, and his replies to them. They were asking ‘who are you?’, ‘where are you from?’, ‘why should we believe you?’ But these weren’t questions seeking understanding – no, they were questions to challenge him.
And Jesus’ answers are challenging too. He challenged the world-view of the Jews at the time, and he challenges our world-view today.
For me, the whole chapter revolves around Jesus’ statement in v31-32:
“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Now the Jews objected to the idea that they weren’t free in the first place. “We’re not slaves,” they said. But Jesus says that “everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” (v34). And of course, ‘everyone who sins’ is in fact... everyone! But “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (v36) And that’s the good news for us all.
But Jesus didn’t stop there. He wanted to challenge them (and us) some more. So he goes on to call them ‘children of the devil.’ Look at verse 44:
“You are of your father the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
Strong words indeed! Do they sound harsh to you? Does this fit with your image of Jesus? ‘Gentle Jesus, meek and mild’? Not in this case!
In this passage Jesus is challenging all of us about truth and lies. At least four times in John 8 alone, Jesus says ‘I tell you the truth.’ This is an important message for us today, because we live in an age of moral relativism. Moral relativism means the belief that there is no absolute truth, no absolute right or wrong, but instead truth is seen to be relative to the person or their circumstances. In other words, ‘what’s true for you may not be true for me.’ And if you start to believe that truth is relative, then there’s no such thing as a lie any more, is there?
This is the prevailing value of our culture today. Our government preaches ‘tolerance.’ But the word ‘tolerance’ has taken on a new meaning. It used to mean showing respect toward others whose opinions differ from yours; nowadays it means that you are not supposed to have any firm opinions of your own. If you believe in absolute truth, absolute right or wrong, society today labels you ‘intolerant.’
And this attitude affects the church too. According to studies by George Barna, only 22% of professing adult Christians today believe in moral absolutes, and in the next generation it’s even fewer - among Christian teenagers, only 6% believe in absolute truth.
So... what about you? Do believe the Bible offers absolute truth for today? Do you believe there are always clear distinctions between right and wrong? Or are there some circumstances where ‘it depends’?
This is the challenge from Jesus to us in John 8. Have we compromised with the relativism of our age? Take some time this week to examine your own attitudes and values. Are you willing to believe absolutely in the truth that Jesus stands for? Is there some area of your life where you need to stop compromising? Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.