Preaching through John’s gospel leads our church to John 8:12-59 this Sunday, and I have been freshly amazed at the words of Jesus as he “bows up” on those who claim to believe him. Is there a greater example of Gospel-violence in all of Scripture? Jesus tells all who will listen that they are lost in darkness (12), “from below/of the world” (23-24), enslaved to sin (31-34), and children of the devil (42-47). We are all destined to die in our sin. (21, 24) He will not let them make a feeble profession of faith (30) without forcing them to grapple with and repent of their total depravity.
This is the violent clash of light and darkness that reaches its apex at the cross, and that continues today as the Gospel goes forth by the decree of the Risen One. And as he drives home the reality of their wickedness, he also holds out their only hope: himself. He extends to them mercifully the light of life (12), the Savior “from above/of God” (21-24), freedom from slavery through the Son (31-36), and escape from the family of the devil into the favor of God (51). He makes it plain that their problem is far more grave than they could have ever dreamed, and that the solution lies in only one source. This is faithful, loving, courageous, compassionate, pride-killing, God-exalting, unwavering, unrelenting Gospel violence. And we are called to it.
I can’t count how many times this week someone has tried to convince me that a certain political figure is a “maverick.” It seems quite often that many preachers like to posture themselves as such, also. But enough already with the public persona; that matters even less in the Kingdom of God than in the presidential election. How about some “specific examples” – – how are we handling the Gospel? Are we weak and hesitant, do we pander to certain groups in the church, are we too cowardly to apply it directly to our people’s lives? Or are we loud and brash for the sake of some Dricoll-esq image we are trying to create, desperately attempting to be edgy or a “bulldog”? This is foolishness. Let us handle the Gospel faithfully, in and out of the pulpit, as a shepherd and an evangelist. When it pierces, let us be fearsome, and when it is a balm, let us be tender. Let us be as violent as Christ, for the glory of our King and the eternal good of the souls in our care.