This series has revealed time and time again that the original language of scripture captures nuances that are missed as modern translations stress the text by molding them into conformity to modern theology and practice. A quick review of modern translations shows that the goal is to capture “thought for thought” rather than word for word. In the hope of making the bible “easier to read“, the contextual idioms are lost, and along with it goes the core message or “logos.” The only way back is to do as this series has endeavored to do, and regain these nuances by pulling directly form the Greek translation, and rebuilding the entire conversation, and then deriving our theology and practice from there.
For this series, we have seen a constant theme bubble to the surface which is emphasized in today’s passage. This theme is that of our “ontology” or our “true self” or being, which is hidden in Christ and found in God. To be “beloved” or a “friend of God” is our true “identity” or “who” we truly are. The “false self”, what I call our “Fake ID or pseudonym” has been shown throughout the text as people who are identified or “over-identified” (named by) the world system or Kosmos. To receive an identity from Government or Religion (Church and State) is to be “one with” or identified with the institutional powers which were now going to kill Jesus. This should set us up to hear these words.
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” John 15:18-19
The word “miséo” means (to hate, show disdain, to detest or be hostile toward) something. Jesus’ own religion and his local government were deeply concerned by the subversive effect of Jesus’ teaching. As people followed Jesus, these two largest institutional powers began to have less and less control over the people because Jesus was showing them that orienting themselves in God through faith, meant they were no longer obligated to comply with religious law and were free. When those in power lose their power, they begin to hate, and marginalize and eventually kill those they can no longer control. It’s exactly the same today. The same world systems of Religion and State are as powerful as they have ever been, and that is an indictment on much of the modern Church which has forsaken the Gospel and replaced it with threat, conversion and evacuation…none of which exist in Jesus’ teachings.
Though the modern Church may be ridiculed because it cannot adequately explain it’s beliefs to the world, the super-structure of Church is not being persecuted. The State is perfectly fine with main-line religions existing and working in step with governments as the propaganda arms for its binary forms of politics. What is under persecution, what is still hated, are those liberated from over-identification with a system, who are recalcitrant to authorities who work to stifle and marginalize them. Those working to transform culture and power structures are the most persecuted.
When Jesus says “I chose you out of the world” he is laying claim to our true identity which he has “rescued” or saved by redeeming us or buying us back, pulling us out, removing us from, freeing us from our over-identification with and dependency upon, such institutions. We never discover our true self until we are free from our family, friends, vocations, tribes, religions, patriotism, affiliations, or principalities and powers. Discovering the Truth that institutions can actually obscure our true identity, is what frees us. This is why Jesus refers to these institutions as “world systems” and in this passage labels the religious as guilty of sin:
“If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.” (v.22)
Jesus will later tell his disciples that the same Spirit which has guided him (the Spirit of truth-v.26) will be given to them. The “Truth” (álétheia) means to be “Real, authentic, genuine, pertaining to ‘being real’. In other words, the Good News (gospel) is that as we find ourselves or are renamed by God we become real or authentic, and this liberates us from the need to identified by any institution derived from the world system. We are taken out of the fiction or pseudonym and into our True self found in God. This is known as rescue, redemption, or salvation. This is not at all the same thing as conversion to a religion.
How did becoming “genuine” or authentic get replaced with converting to a religion?
If we are half awake, then we can see the implications here. The next step is for us to test this. What institution in life most defines us? What world system are we most proud to possess and be named by? Is it our family? Is it our job? Is it our government? Is it our religion or denomination or sect of belief? If we do not identify as the ‘beloved’ of God or the ‘friend of god’ then I’m sorry to say, we are still “of the world.” The message I offer today is the same as Jesus’ message. It is the invitation to come out from being identified with such false systems and learn what it means to be named by or identified by and with God through Christ. If we are feeling a hesitancy or resistance, that is to be expected. If we double down on this dark impulse to be skeptical or afraid of our institutions, the seed will germinate into hatred, though we may not be awake enough to detect it at first.
The reason we all hate this voice of liberation is because we all know, deep down, that a part of us must die. The false self cannot exist in the perfect light of Truth. Thomas Merton said; “The false self is the only thing God can know nothing about.” The pseudonym doesn’t ultimately exist. It is only a temporal name tag for the duration of our life and then death rips it off like a vapor, exposing what has been there hiding in plain sight. The real person, those guided by the “spirit of Truth” always seem to find this place of authenticity in their Maker. This is the correct measurement for those who are saved. Not religious compliance or affiliation with any institution.
The invitation of the gospel is not to convert to any religion, it has always been to be completed unto our lasting, authentic, being, found only in the lasting, authentic, being of God. My best advice is for us to open our hands when called and follow this voice into a new life and new way of living, no matter what it costs us, no matter what pseudonym has to die. Then the world will know and experience the Truth.