You can choose your friends…
John 8: 31-42
31 Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.’ 33 They answered him, ‘We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, “You will be made free”?’
34 Jesus answered them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there for ever. 36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are descendants of Abraham; yet you look for an opportunity to kill me, because there is no place in you for my word. 38 I declare what I have seen in the Father’s presence; as for you, you should do what you have heard from the Father.’
39 They answered him, ‘Abraham is our father.’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing what Abraham did, 40 but now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. 41 You are indeed doing what your father does.’ They said to him, ‘We are not illegitimate children; we have one father, God himself.’ 42 Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now I am here. I did not come on my own, but he sent me.
“Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me.” (v42)
We know that we should love others, and especially other Christians, but sometimes we might not like them very much. In this passage Jesus points out the difference between those who are part of the family and those who are not. Those who are part of the family are part of it forever and take part in family life. This means that they adhere to the norms of family life; the little rituals, the behaviours ingrained through custom and habit and years spent living together. Those who are not part of the family follow different rules.
In a family as rich and diverse as the Christian family, we may sometimes find ourselves in disagreement about what exactly constitutes the rules, the norms, and the rituals. However, the one thing that we all have in common is that we love Jesus. Everything else is irrelevant in the face of that fact. The one truth upon which we can all agree is that he loves us and died to save us.
We can choose our friends, but we can’t choose our family, and that is as true of the Christian family as our biological family. Nevertheless, Jesus asks us to love one another, and true community is not a group of like-minded people but a group of assorted, odd, and anomalous people who happen to inhabit the same space, with one thing in common. As M Scott Peck puts it: “…community is a group of people who, regardless of their backgrounds and beliefs, have been able to accept and transcend the differences, enabling them to communicate effectively and openly.”
help us to love one another
even when we don’t like one another.
Help us to look to what we have in common
rather than accentuate our differences.
Help us to create community
around our shared beliefs.
May we not try to convince one another
of truths which matter less
than we might think,
or reject one another
over differences of opinion.
Rather, may our love for God
be what unites us. Amen.