John 3:16 is one of the most familiar verses of scripture. Many people may have memorized it in childhood Sunday school challenges. It shows up on banners at sporting events. Conversely, John 3:17 may be one of the least familiar verses of scripture: “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
I worry that one of the reasons the church is dying is that we have forgotten John 3:17. Too many people claiming to be Christian spend too much time condemning those who believe, look, or behave differently. Too often the church’s message has been, “Do this, believe that, give up those, change these, and then God will love you.” Have we forgotten that love and non-condemnation go hand in hand?
Consider John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that God gave God’s only son” (AP). God did not wait until the world was perfect to send God’s gift of love. God became incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth precisely at a time when the world was a mess. In the same way, God loves all people just as we are—mess and all. God loves. God does not condemn. God saves.
Love. Do not condemn. Save. That would be a good action plan for the church. God loves us, no strings attached. Let us begin by loving others with no strings attached. Love people simply as they are. Rather than condemnation, let us foster curiosity that seeks understanding. When encountering difference, let us ask questions and listen. With love, without condemnation, we work to save folks—from evil, injustice, and oppression “in whatever forms they present themselves.” (UMH, no. 34).
Divine Love, teach us to love without judgment or condemnation. Amen.
This Sunday we will celebrate the Trinity, the Christian belief that God is one being and exists in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Christian theologians point out that there are many references to this doctrine in the Bible. In Isaiah, the voice of the Lord asks, “Who will go for us?” not, “Who will go for me?” In Romans, Paul speaks of all three persons of the Trinity: We pray to the Father through the Spirit because of the work of the Son. Jesus also speaks to Nicodemus about the role of all three persons of the Trinity. This may not be the simplest of Christian doctrines, but it is foundational because it explains the nature of God and God’s work throughout human history.
Read Isaiah 6:1-8. Can you recall a time when you said to God, “Here I am; send me”? What prompted you? What helped you feel empowered to serve?
Read Psalm 29. As you read about the power of the Lord’s voice, do you find yourself frightened or drawn in? How approachable is God to you?
Read Romans 8:12-17. When has fear controlled you? How does being led by God’s Spirit free you from fear?
Read John 3:1-17. How has your life been reshaped by the Spirit? How did sins and failings manifest in the new creation?
Respond by posting a prayer.
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