Vol.X No.I Pg.3
March 1973

What About "John"

Dan S. Shipley

Peter therefore seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me. (Jn. 21:21, 22)

Without impugning Peters motives in asking this question and without exploring all the implications of the Lords answer, there is yet an important, if simple, lesson to be gleaned from these passages. Essentially, Peter is asking, What about John? The mild rebuke of Jesus reminds him that this matter is really none of his business. Your business is to follow me, as one version puts it. The Lords advice to Peter is good advice to all who would allow the affairs of others to deter them from the serious business of following Christ.

Further, it is timeless advice, because in different ways and for different reasons many have continued to ask Peters question. The non-Christian, for instance, when informed that the gospel plan of salvation involves faith, repentance, confession, and baptism, may ask, But what about the thief on the cross? or, What about my parents who died without doing that? or, What about the jungle natives who never hear the gospel?—in other words, What about John? Perhaps not all who ask such questions would appreciate a kindly paraphrased reply like, What is that to you? You follow Christi —but it would be appropriate since every man who seeks salvation must follow Him, regardless of all other persons, circumstances or consequences.

To some, the what-about-John issue with respect to baptism may be a sincere inquiry in the search of truth— but to the less-noble it may be nothing more than a diversion to avoid the demands of truth. Regrettably, some who like to be known as Christians manufacture excuses and self-justification out of the same machinery. More often than not, when erring brethren are confronted with their sins or unfaithfulness, they respond with some form of What about John? With them, John and his real or imagined short-comings are not so much objects of concern as crutches for their own sins. The implication is that since John is allowed to get by with it, their guilt is somehow diminished —or at least ought to be overlooked. Such reasoning, fallacious as it may be, is much more prevalent and influential than generally recognized —simply because it is not often expressed until the sinner is faced with his sins (an unpopular and infrequent type of confrontation practiced by early Christians such as Paul, Gal. 2:11). Then you hear about John! Then Johns sins suddenly become important —but only for the purpose of being exploited, not corrected.

What about John? He may be wrong as accused. If so, he needs to be dealt with the same as his accuser —and his accuser should remember that he himself may well be the John used as an excuse by yet other sinners. He, and all, would better ask, WHAT ABOUT ME? Settling this question fits all for following Christ —and helping John to do likewise.