You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. John 8:44
Growing up, my brother and I fought as brothers will do. After one particularly contentious day, when I was probably five or six, I proclaimed that I didn’t want to live at home with my brother anymore. Apparently tired of our fighting, my dad said that was fine and that he would contact the neighbor family to see if I could go live with them.
He called my bluff with his own, which had its desired effect. I was terrified. In my frustration, I claimed I wanted to leave, but when threatened with being cast out, I changed my attitude. I know now that my father would have never followed through, but nevertheless, I got the message. If I wanted to remain part of the family, I needed to start acting like it.
This is not completely dissimilar to Christ’s message in today’s passage. In the story, Jesus contended with the Pharisees, who claimed spiritual superiority because they were sons of Abraham and thus, of God. Jesus informed them that he was the true offspring of God and that the Pharisees weren’t God’s children because they didn’t follow him. They objected, We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God (John 8:41). Jesus insisted they were spiritual bastards, boldly claiming that they were not sons of God, but rather, sons of the devil (John 8:44).
What should disturb us about the story is not the harsh language, but that it was those who thought themselves to be the most religious, who were absolutely lost. It was those who truly believed that they had faith, who were profoundly mistaken. It’s not that they didn’t believe. They probably believed in God’s existence more than anyone. Their behavior though, proved that they didn’t practice faith in him. On the outside, they looked like the spiritual elite, but their lives revealed that they didn’t follow God, but rather the devil.
This should be a sobering thought to anyone who thinks that simple belief in God is the same as living in faith. According to Jesus, we can claim to be Christians and we can claim to be sons of God, but if we don’t live like it, we’re still simply spiritual bastards, fooling ourselves. If we truly want to be part of God’s family, then we must choose to live like it.