John 7 — To Do or Not Do God’s Will
Established on All Souls’ Day in 1909, Lambda Chi Alpha is a men’s social fraternity that today boasts over 280,000 lifetime initiates and 195 collegiate chapters, rendering it one of North America’s largest social fraternities. The fraternity’s crest consists of a rising crescent placed behind the Cross of Saint George, both colored in gold, aimed at symbolizing the mutual relationship of aspiration and sacrifice. The creed of Lambda Chi Alpha states, “The crescent is our symbol — pure, high, and ever growing; and the cross is our guide — denoting service, sacrifice, and even suffering and humiliation before the world, bravely endured if need be in following that ideal.”
It was these principles 50 years ago that encouraged Lambda Chi Alpha to abolish traditional pledgeship, whereby new members before their initiation are set apart from the active chapter, in favor of “associate membership,” granting new members immediate place and franchise in all active chapter meetings and activities, except for those pertaining to the initiation ritual. In doing this, Lambda Chi Alpha men pledged to forgo any hazing rituals out of respect of human dignity. It was a revolutionary concept in the modern collegiate fraternity world. The fraternity purposely chose to go against social norms to function in the world the way that all people should together live.
But with this choice has come persecution. A younger fellow brother recently related to me how his chapter is openly ridiculed by other fraternities at his campus because of this stance. Yet, despite the open scorn, he said that his chapter would not give in to social pressure because respecting the rules of their host institution – as well as the dignity of all their members and campus community as Lambda Chi Alpha has charged them – is the right thing to do. “So then,” Paul says, “as we have opportunity, let us do good to all” (Gal. 6:10).
In this week’s readings from our journey through the Gospel of John as part of the Good Book Club, the Jews in Judea seek Jesus out to kill him. Their hatred of him has become high and intense. Because of this, Jesus instructs his brethren to go to the Feast of Tabernacles observance without him. Jesus “also went up, not publicly but in private” (Jn. 7:10). He goes privately because “my time has not yet fully come” (Jn. 7:8). Jesus must keep to the divine timetable of God’s plan for humanity’s redemption. Though Jesus’ time has not yet come, our “time is always here” (Jn. 7:6) to do and proclaim that which is right.
How interesting then are the people’s mutterings about Jesus. “Some said, ‘He is a good man,’ others said, ‘No, he is leading people astray’” (Jn. 7:12). Accounts of Jesus’ ministry and manner of life have moved the hearts of some Judeans; they have stiffened those of others. Regardless of their opinion, the people make sure not to publicly express it. The Jewish leaders are out to get Jesus and nobody wants to “get got” with him.
The opinions expressed about Jesus in the days of John 7 are expressed still in today’s time. They account for the choice people make to either follow or reject God’s way. “If any man’s will is to do [God’s] will,” Jesus says, “he shall know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority… He who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood” (Jn. 7:17-18).
Many social fraternities like Lambda Chi Alpha reference Jesus’ teachings in their creeds and rituals. The effect his teachings have within such organizations is how they inform what they themselves teach, attempting to frame the experience they wish to provide their members, the experience itself being the logical result flowing from it all. The crucial difference between such organizations and the Christian faith is that unlike Christianity, fraternal organizations (unless they are explicitly Christian) only regard Jesus’ teachings as worthy principles to follow. Individual members and chapters have the choice to follow them or not and how the organization deals with those that do not conform is left to their discretion.
Yet, to be a Christian, one must be serious about intending to do God’s will by publicly and privately living out Jesus’ way in all facets of their lives. It’s either all or nothing at all. Jesus says, “If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water’” (Jn. 7:37-38). To those who choose Jesus’ way comes the guarantee of their experience with Christ proving itself to the fullest and being worth their while. Remember what Jesus said two weeks ago: “Whoever believes in [God] should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16).
But like my young Lambda Chi Alpha brother, those who choose Jesus’ way will find themselves scorned and mocked, seeing their way of life as irrelevant, old-fashioned, and out of step with the way things today are done. Not only must we willingly live out our faith, we must not give in to pressure to conform to this world’s ways.
In John 7 we see in Jesus’ words and the people’s mutterings the challenge to recommit ourselves fully to God’s way shown.
John 8 — Stand Up for Jesus
As we read through John 8, we see Jesus on the defense. The Pharisees accuse him of “bearing witness to yourself; your testimony is not true” (Jn. 8:13). Later on in the chapter, Jesus is accused of being demon-possessed and likened to a Samaritan. As we earlier read in 7:20 and will again in 10:20, demon-possession is one of the frequently levied charges against Jesus.
Though Jesus’ detractors bring all sorts of allegations against him, what undeniable proof can they offer for their case? Nothing. Jesus’ work is proven true by the Father’s commission; the detractors “judge according to the flesh” (Jn. 8:15), therefore cannot meet the burden of proof. Their only goal is to discredit Jesus among the people. But Jesus is well covered: “The Father who sent me bears witness to me” (Jn. 8:18).
Faithful Christians in this age know and have experienced Jesus’ vindication. “Truly, truly, I say to you, if any one keeps my word, he will never see death” (Jn. 8:51). And God invites us to put his words to the test, judging the results for ourselves. From such test we experience sacrifice and aspiration — sacrifice of our own wills in favor of God’s will for us, and aspiration for something more meaningful in our lives. By taking the words of Jesus, himself the very Word of God, seriously to heart, we see again and again and again from them nothing but the truth.
John 8, thus, should be our encouragement to stand up for Jesus. “Jesus looked up and said… ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again’” (Jn. 8:10-11). Not one of us is perfect, yet Jesus stands up for you and me and all who seek after God’s righteousness. Therefore, let us stand up for Jesus.
John 9 — Walking in the Light of Christ
We see in John 9 an illustration of the themes I have endeavored to present — Jesus as God’s true light, our only way to eternal life, and our need to choose his ways over the world’s. This is exemplified in how after his healing, the man who was blind but now sees comes to full faith in Jesus. He has become a living proof of Jesus’ claim in 8:12: “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Not only do we see Jesus giving a blind man sight, dealing with the physical, but a figurative representation of the beginning of one’s new spiritual life in Christ. It has been God’s plan from the beginning to give his people light. The dawning of God’s light within one’s soul is assurance of the good things yet to come from God to them that seek him. When God’s light is ignited, never can it be extinguished.
The Pharisees’ investigation of the formerly blind man brings me to the remembrance of a motto I learned from my days as a collegiate Lambda Chi Alpha brother: “Vir Quisque Vir” (“Every Man a Man”). The Pharisees did not treat the formerly blind man as a fellow human being; they berated and verbally assaulted him. The Pharisees shows us how we are not to treat people.
The important lesson I learned when I first became a Christian, and what Lambda Chi Alpha reinforced, was that respect for others is the essence of sound law, which, in turn, helps us flourish at being human. Love for God and neighbor should be humanity’s top priority. Seeing every person equally as Jesus does is the intentional living of Christian virtue. And when we choose to live the way of Jesus, we take an important step in our journey to eternal life. We go from dwelling in the darkness of sin to walking in Jesus’ most radiant light.
Jesus says, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see” (Jn. 9:39). To those who choose him Jesus grants the right to become God’s children.
Dear friends, let us not choose darkness, but the light of Jesus Christ. Do God’s will, stand up for Jesus, and walk in his light as God’s ransomed, healed, restored, and forgiven child.
The Rev. Brandt L. Montgomery is the Chaplain of Saint James School in Hagerstown, Maryland.