Debates, Factions and the Gospel

John 7:43 (NIV): Thus the people were divided because of Jesus.

I am very interested in politics, and I enjoy political discussions. Sometimes good faith disagreements exist, but I do step on the occasional land mine. Political allegiances are rooted in deeply held convictions and feelings, so sturdy debate can offend sensibilities or even trigger wounds. The power of words are easily misused, especially when it comes to political disagreements.

In John 7:40-42 there was a fierce debate over Jesus.  Some saw him as the Prophet and others saw Jesus as the Messiah. Others rejected both viewpoints, because Jesus came from Galilee and not Bethlehem. These were not good faith differences in theology. Factions had formed, each group deeply suspicious of the other. 

The Pharisees Question Jesus – James Tissot

Political allegiances create division today. Political parties have different ways of seeing the world: one group believes they produce good, while the other side produces evil. When these viewpoints are irreconcilable, the result is usually demagoguery and hostility. In such a climate, debate is unavoidable and fruitless.

John 7:33 (NIV): “I am with you for only a short time, and then I am going to the one who sent me.

In John 7 Jesus stands apart from a divisive debate, but not because the subject wasn’t important (it was about Him!).  Jesus was not one to shy away from debate. In his earthly ministry he publicly confronted error with truth, and hypocrisy with righteousness. In this instance Jesus resists identifying with a particular group, but instead chooses to talk about his relationship to his Father in terms of his mission.  Perhaps he did not want a label or a fruitless debate to distract from the Gospel.

About Corey Sharpe

Where do we get our beliefs? Three theological perspectives have significantly shaped my Christian identity: Evangelicalism, the early Methodist tradition and liberation theology. From my coming to faith in a Baptist church and throughout my education in a Baptist school and college, I was nurtured by convictions that emphasized a spiritual rebirth, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the centrality of the Bible. Even when I disagree with certain aspects of evangelicalism, it has deeply influenced my sense of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. My seminary studies spawned my interest in early Methodism, particularly its approach to spiritual formation. Its leaders were convinced that only a foundation of doctrine and discipline would lead to a meaningful transformation of the heart and mind. In other words, having the mind of Christ enables me to be more like Christ. Life in a suburban culture obscures the increasing gap between the poor and rich, as well as the Bible’s close identification with the poor. My doctoral work in socio-cultural context exposed me to liberation theology, which helps me see redemptive history as a history of oppressed groups, written from the perspective of the powerless, about a God who is actively involved with the poor in their struggles. I am now the pastor at Huntingtown United Methodist Church in Calvert County, Maryland. Together my wife and I are raising 4 young theologians.
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