Scripture reading for today: John 1-3
Just as I wished my sister a happy birthday on the fourth, I want to extend those same wishes to my brother Michael today. Happy 21st, be safe, be smart.
I’m beginning to take on the book of John as a bit of a personal project. When it comes to my knowledge of and familiarity of scripture, John is one of my primary weaknesses. When it comes to the gospel studies, you can almost take on Matthew, Mark, and Luke at the same time because they share so much in common. However, when read together it’s not the similarities that stand out but the areas in which each book is distinct. I celebrate these distinctions.
The book of John, on the other hand, remains quite distinct from these other three in many ways. It is clear that John is telling the same story about the same person. He speaks of Jesus Christ whose ministry was preceded and launched by John the Baptist. He tells similar stories (such as healings, Jesus in the temple, feeding the five thousand, etc.). However, the book also just maintains a different quality. It is more overtly theological than the other gospels (though the other gospels are inherently theological). It is highly metaphorical, maintaining such themes as “light vs. darkness” from start to finish. It devotes far more attention to Jesus’ last days than other gospels. In sum, it is simply distinct.
What are we to make of the distinctiveness of each of the gospels? I think this is an important question. I think about it like this: if someone asked Meredith, Michael, and I to write the story of our father, Pete, we would surely end up with different accounts. Sure there would be similar stories, but they may appear in different orders and perhaps have a different tone depending on our distinct experiences. It seems important, then, not to try to synthesize the voices too heartily but instead to allow the difference to shine through in order to have the fullest possible understanding of our father.
I believe we should approach the gospels similarly. Each story is crafted in a particular way to highlight particular characteristics of Jesus’ life, ministry, message, and implication. If we allow these different voices to speak we may walk away with a fuller view of Jesus.
Further, I believe this speaks to the importance of diversity in a larger context, namely, in this case, within a given church community. We all interpret the world through our own distinct lens shaped by our life experience. No two are the same. It is not necessary to always agree, but I do think it is important to allow room for a diversity of voices.
I think the appreciation of diversity teaches us something about what it means to submit our lives and will to God’s control. It teaches the importance of humility when it comes to dealing with other people and other opinions in the context of a community. Often times, other people can assess our actions and motivations better than we can. Seeking these voices can helpfully protect us from ourselves. Further, if we can acknowledge that everyone has a perspective, and no one knows the full truth of a situation, including ourselves, it can open the door for more gracious interpersonal interaction.
Reflection: How else do you see John as distinct from the other gospels (especially in these first three chapters)? What’re your thoughts on diversity of thought within the church? (I mean this in a broad sense, not just the interpretation of the Bible but in the life and action of the members of the church body.)