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Our news cycle is frequently filled with stories of sacrificial love – of parents for their children, of sacrifice and commitment by individuals for God’s creation, for refugees, for peace between warring nations, tribes and faiths, of people dying for their country, of battles between ‘good and evil’.  Our hearts yearn to know good is triumphant, that evil isn’t winning.   We turn the world into those who are good and those who are evil to try and comfort ourselves; we judge, we sentence, we reject. Our choices are made for ourselves and others.  No appeal is accepted.  We demand to know which side do you belong to, if its not my side then I am against you!

Into such a divided and dividing world, we are shocked to hear a different story, a different narrative into which we are invited to live by God. 

‘God so loved the world, that God gave God’s only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life’ (John 3:16).

God’s deep, abiding, eternal love is so overwhelming, so inclusive and comprehensive, we find it hard to believe and when we are told God was prepared to die for all of us rather than betray God’s love for us, our minds begin to stutter and resist. Its too unbelievable.  God gives of God’s very essence to the world in an unbelievable act of self-sacrifice on behalf of the world.  It is our Creator who, in Jesus, reaches out to a lost and broken world for all time, all people, all creation.

We are confronted then by a choice.  A choice we frequently deny or reject.  We change our minds so often, we can miss the permanency, the eternity held in the decisions we make and which God continues to make out of love for us.  

I found a reference to a speech by the then Vice-President of the US, Dan Quayle who said: I believe we are on an irreversible trend toward more freedom, but that could change!’   We’re a bit like Robert Frost’s travellers, finding ourselves where a road divides into two and we want to go down both at once.  We find it painful to decide to do this when we know it means we will never be able to do that.  Our choice is critical.   The next statement of John’s Gospel resonates:

And this is the judgement, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.  For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed.  But those who do what is true, come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.  John 3:19-21.

To a world apparently shrouded in the darkness of death-dealing powers, the love of God is a light shining out of the darkness.  Those who do what is true (v.21) do not come to Jesus to have it confirmed to everyone that their deeds are good. Rather, the light of Jesus exposes what everyone is: Jesus is a penetrating light that provokes judgement by making it apparent what and how a person is and behaves (Brown R. 148-149).   The light exposes those who have done deeds of mercy and justice as those whose deeds have been done in God (v.21).

On the other hand, the light of Christ also shows the world’s evildoers for who they really are, and they stand condemned.  In the light of Jesus, there is no where to hide.  Yet condemnation is not the purpose of Jesus’ coming, nor is it God’s last word for humanity.  The Son of God comes not to condemn but to save the world (v.17).  The world’s sin is not only exposed for what it is, God also deals with it.  Jesus is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  

We learn while God’s love is abundantly experienced in the church, it is not restricted to the Church. John’s Gospel makes it clear the purpose of God sending God’s son is universal in intention and action.  God loves even those who love the dark.  God desires all humanity to be drawn to the light, to God’s love.  As we go out into the world as Christians, Jesus is the light by which we see.    God loves the world. 

Yet we know that not everyone wants this life or trust God who offers it, even though they are dying.  Some find it too hard to trust.  Yet, the inclusive love of God will not force itself upon those who opt out.  There is a judgement, says Jesus.  There is condemnation.  But it is not the judgement of God.  God does not damn, reject, hate or create fear and loathing or discriminate.  The judgement occurs whenever we choose to hide from the light of God’s sacrificial love.  Choosing to stay in the darkness is an act of self-condemnation, condemning ourselves to the same old ending. 

Some who love the darkness live imagining eternal life is to be found in possessions, wealth, prestige and power.  For some, the world is so awful and they hate themselves so much, their darkness is of addiction, self-loathing and disgust of the world, masking deep long-term pain.  Even the church finds itself wandering in the darkness when we try to domesticate Jesus, telling him what he can and can’t say and whom he can and cannot save.  More often than not, our evil deeds have become so much habit, so ordinary, so much a part of our lives we no longer recognise Jesus’ way is different to the world’s.  Yet believing in Jesus means we are able to live in harmony with God and God’s creation. 

As we recognise God has revealed God’s self in Jesus, in pain and suffering, in joy, hope and love, God invites from us a decision, to believe or not, to live in response to God’s love for all people, or not.  To say ‘no’ to God’s love in Jesus is to choose to live a life in the familiar darkness, unrecognising of the unreality and horror of the world’s brokenness. It is to be condemned to the living hell of the ‘real world’.

God has given us a joyful, painful, wonderful gift of choice.  When we lack the courage to choose what is best, and act as if our choices don’t matter, we make no progress even on the smoothest of paths.  When we choose courageously with God, we go forward even on the most difficult, challenging and toughest of roads.   God has chosen to rejoice in us, God has chosen to help us, in love, to choose eternal life in God.   I hope you are choosing God.

The Lord be with you. 

Bibliography

Brown, R.E. The Gospel according to John, 1-X11.  Doubleday and Co. Garden City NY.

Jarvis, C.A., Johnosn, E.E.  [Gen. Eds] 2015.  Feasting on the Gospels.  John, Vol. 1, Chs 1-9. Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville. Kentucky. USA.

The Wall Street Journal 26 May, 1989

Lucy Morris
Lucy Morris
Anglican Priest, International Speaker, Published Author, Social Justice Advocate and Activist.

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