Today is Tuesday 18th June, and we are continuing our journey through the Book of John, focusing this week on the topic of ‘Truth and Lies.’ Our Bible passage is John 8: 48-59.
Bic – the company that manufactures ballpoint pens – was established in 1950. Since then it has sold more than 100 billion pens worldwide, which works out as 57 pens being sold every second. That is enough pens to stretch from the earth to the moon 40 times.
In 2012 the company decided they needed a new product, so they brought out “Bic – For Her.” The outside of the pen was decorated with pink and purple floral patterns, and the adverts described it as being “designed to fit comfortably in a woman’s hand.” Users were promised that this was a “beautifully smooth ball pen designed specifically for women.”
The internet went crazy. Men and women from across the world voiced their offence at the need for ‘a pen for women.’
This marketing nightmare for Bic highlights that we have become a society obsessed with – or perhaps even terrified by – the thought that our words or actions might offend someone. This fear meant that somebody, somewhere, thought that a pink flowery pen would be just the thing to stop women feeling marginalised or ignored in the world of ballpoint pens, as obviously up until this point, they may have felt excluded, discriminated against, or even offended by only having the choice of blue or black biros!!
The fear of causing offence has not only permeated the world, but has also penetrated the church, and is now causing many Christians to feel paralysed about speaking openly about their faith in Jesus. We don’t want to risk offending anyone.
How can the Bible passage for today help us, as we seek to speak the truth about Jesus?
Firstly, we need to remember that Jesus offended people.
Ultimately, people found his claims to be the Messiah so offensive, that they crucified him. We see the forerunner to this in today’s passage. In verse 58, Jesus says he is “I am” – the Old Testament name that God gave himself. Upon hearing this, the Pharisees instantly picked up stones to throw at Jesus.
However, Jesus doesn’t just offend others with statements about himself and who he is; he also offended people as he questioned their own actions and thoughts. In John chapter 8, we see the Pharisees becoming increasingly offended as Jesus challenges their belief that a person’s godliness is based upon lineage – being born into a Jewish family – rather than being a disciple of Christ and listening to and following his Word.
Jesus’ words continue to offend today – they offend our obsession with money, our attitude to those in authority, the way we conduct our relationships with other people, they offend our emotions, our desires and even our wordly fears.
Whenever we look at Jesus, and the things he says and does, we then need to look back at ourselves, and so from today’s passage I’d like to highlight two things that spoke to me, as I was thinking about our fear of causing offence.
The first was verse 55 which says, “If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word.”
This verse is challenging because I think that many times we shy away from saying “Yes, I know Jesus, he is my Saviour, and I believe the things that he said in the Bible are true.”
Sometimes it feels that if you say you are a Christian, then you’ll be labelled as judgemental, bigoted or out of touch with modern society. We know that most people are fine about Baby Jesus in the crib at Christmas, but we think people will be offended if we talk about the Crucified Jesus on the Cross at Easter. And so, worried that people will be offended by the truth that we speak, we stay silent instead.
Then God drew my attention to verse 50, where Jesus says, “I am not seeking glory for myself”.
When we don’t speak up for Jesus, or tell others that we know him, are we actually acting like this because we don’t want to lose some of the glory which others ascribe to us? Are we primarily seeking to maintain our own position or level of popularity?
Often, our silence is to benefit ourselves, not protect others from offence, and certainly not to protect Jesus from being misunderstood.
If we are so worried about people being offended by us, do we ever stop to think about what Jesus may feel about our silence, and about us lying about our relationship with him?
As disciples of Jesus, we are not to seek glory for ourselves, or to place value in the glory or affirmation that we receive from others. Instead, we are to speak the truth, seek to live and act in such a way that gives glory to God, and we are to work to extend the kingdom of God by telling others that true freedom is found through the death and resurrection of Jesus.
This passage forces us to ask some difficult questions of ourselves.
Are we silent about Jesus because we are acting out of fear of causing offence, rather than speaking from a place of freedom?
Are we silent about Jesus because we are worried about our friendships changing, or our position or standing being demoted; rather than speaking truth to bring glory to God, and to see his kingdom values promoted?
Each day, do we actively look for opportunities where we can speak to others about Jesus and say, “I do know him, and I keep his word?”
Lord Jesus, forgive us for the times when we have kept silent and lied about our relationship with you. Help us today to have the boldness and confidence to speak about you to others. Amen.
READING: John 8:48-59 (ESV)
The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honour my Father, and you dishonour me. Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.