“Trust me!” Jesus says, and the more he says it, the less the crowd is inclined to go along.
John’s idea of what it means to believe is far different from ours in our scientific, post-Enlightenment world, of course. It’s not assent to an intellectual proposition the apostle is after, it’s that his readers come to better know Jesus, the bread of heaven. The relational aspect finally saves the story from itself. Even as the author fumes about the crowd’s blindness, his main character invites them into relationship. Jesus, ever the teacher, wants to see the light in their eyes as the world opens up before them. He knows there’s no margin in making them feel stupid.
The leader of an immunization advocacy group recently told me it’s well known in that world that you simply cannot argue someone into taking the necessary steps for public health. They may listen to the logic and consider the evidence, but if they’re skeptical, it all goes in one ear and out the other. The only thing to do, in her words, is to offer them “positive feelings strong enough to outweigh the bad.”
The thing to do, then, is to show people “that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” by listening to them, taking them seriously, and building a relationship. In encouraging vaccination, avoid the temptation to scoff at plain ignorance and recalcitrance. In reading John, stop demanding that people think the same way we do. It doesn’t always work—people can be pretty stubborn, after all—but when it does, it brings the joy of watching someone realize for the first time how wonderful and strange life is in the light of God’s love. Why would you want to miss out on that fun?
“The thing to do is to show people ‘that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world’ by listening to them, taking them seriously, and building a relationship.” — @pastordan #lectionaryhttps://t.co/9iiMbYwgQG
— theChristianCentury (@ChristianCent) July 6, 2021