Unity. This one word sums up what many people think should be the goal of humanity in general and church-people in particular. If you want to expand the term, it would be unity without judgment. There is a pressure to develop a unity that is founded in just getting along with everyone everywhere every time.
To advance this as Christian ideal, though, is to skip John 7. First, we need to get there. Jesus has been teaching in Jerusalem in the days surrounding the Feast of Tabernacles. This was a time to remember the Exodus and the time when the people of Israel, on their way out of Egypt, dwelt in tents.
This specific chapter occurs after Jesus has fed the 5,000 and done many miracles. John’s Gospel records specific signs of Jesus’ status as Messiah, and those are half-done at this point. During this time, there is an argument among the people and the religious leadership about who Jesus is.
Not about whether or not his name is Jesus or whether he grew up in Nazareth, but whether his identity is deeper than those simple concepts. Jesus, rather than trying to soothe the divisions, actually pushes deeper into them. He highlights that the Jewish law of the time required religious ceremony to be upheld on the Sabbath while He was being criticized for healing on the Sabbath.
Jesus’ words on the matter? Judge, but judge righteously. Judge according to God’s standards.
This does nothing to still the division. Some continue to follow Jesus, while others determine that the time has come to silence Him. There is even a division between the Pharisees, the chief priests, and their own guards. The guards refuse to arrest Jesus, saying He has done nothing wrong. The religious leaders insist that He has.
It is, truly, just a mess.
It is not a mess because people were trying to judge who Jesus was. In fact, He encourages them to do so. He simply insisted that the judgment be based on righteousness and not selfishness. He does not appeal that they all be unified as Jews or as anti-Romans. He instead leaves the crowd divided. He leave Nicodemus to face the Pharisees and the crowd condemned by those same Pharisees.
(Frequent question in Scripture study, honestly.)
Because the highest ideal of Christianity is not simply unity. It is unity with Jesus. It is not our goal as Christian people to be at peace with just anyone. It is our requirement that we be at peace with the Lord Jesus Christ. End of story.
Any others who are at peace with Jesus are then, automatically, at peace with us. Those who are opposed to Him? Well, if they want information, we are there to share it. If they have needs, we are there to meet them. Why? Because we are all unified with Christ, and so He does those things through us.
If those who are detached are just out to attack Jesus? Well, then they will attack us. And we will deal with it, going to the cross when it is our time
Division is a natural part of the human experience, and a natural part of the Christian experience. Your faith, hope, and love are not shown by having unity with all people at all times. These are shown by how you handle the lack of unity.
What do you do to bring others into unity with Christ? Because you will accomplish no such thing by anger, irritation, or bitterness. So take the necessary steps.
Today’s Nerd Note: Much has been discussed regarding John 7:8-10, where Jesus tells His brothers that He will go the Feast, and then He goes.
So, He lied?
Well, He told them that He would not do something and then He did it. Either that or He meant something else by not “going up.” It is frequently posited that He meant He would not go in entourage, with big publicity. This may be accurate, but I’m uncertain. Another suggestion is that He changed His plan.
Another interesting factor from this early part of the chapter is how His brothers are not believing in Him, and are basically taunting Him to go have a confrontation with the religious leaders.
I think there is a connection here. Jesus is not going up for that purpose. He goes to the Feast but not to force the confrontation. That comes later, at a specific Passover. This is just one of the places where you need to read and think, not just gloss through it. People outside of the faith will do that. Those within must not.