“But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word”
(John 8:55 ESV)
There is nothing quite so intolerant as calling someone a liar. Heck, even when a politician is caught red-handed in a li…ahem…playing fast and loose with the truth, we are very loathe to call that politician a liar [unless he’s in the opposite political party, in which case we are happy to].
Calling someone a liar is the height of intolerance. The person lying is not mistaken, or led astray, or [add appropriate politically correct term here]. When someone calls another person a liar it is all or nothing. They are leaving no room for interpretation or nuance or any way out [“I misspoke when I said…”].
Jesus calls those who opposed him liars here and when one reads it, the strength of the term, the sheer audacity of Christ to call them out, springs forth from the page and metaphorically slaps the reader. One can imagine how it went over with those whom Jesus was calling liars.
A few things about this:
- These are the ones who thought they had all the theologically correct answers. Jesus is always the most harsh and intolerant with them. He was kind, compassionate, and forgiving with lowly sinners; with the self-righteous, he was absolutely ruthless.
- Jesus well understood how his words came across. A liar in the Scriptures is universally a grave charge. He was not being flippant here, Jesus was being blood-earnestly serious.
- Jesus undoubtedly wants to shock them because that is the only way the self-righteous can have their ears opened so that they can hear his message and have eternal life. In this way, when Jesus was intolerant he was being compassionate.
Yes. I said it. Sometimes intolerance is compassionate. Of course our problem is that we think we can be intolerant like Jesus, but that is rarely true. Very often when we are being intolerant of something/someone, we are patting ourselves on the back for standing up for God’s standards when really all we are is self-righteous…like these liars.