Reading: John 3:1-17
Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, “You must be born from above.” The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can these things be?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?
‘Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
‘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.
There are probably few Bible verses as well known as John 3:16. We see it on highway billboard signs and at sports games. Sometimes we hear it used by some Christians as a call to come to faith, focusing especially on the idea that one has to proclaim one’s faith in Jesus to be saved. I have even heard it used to condemn those who are assumed not to be believers. I think it is rather dangerous to pull out Scripture verses to stand on their own, to try to make a specific point. Quite often, this comes with an agenda, and I think, more often than not, it is not being faithful to what the writer of that particular passage was trying to convey. At the very least, John 3:17 needs to be included, where it is spelled out quite clearly that Jesus came, not to condemn the world, but rather, in order that the world might be saved. The WORLD might be saved! To me, it is hard to find anything but good news for the entire world in this. If we have to look for ways to exclude someone, or a group of people, from God’s love, I think we might be on the wrong path in how we live out our faith.
Several places in Scripture, we hear Jesus calling us not to judge. Instead, the call to us, is to simply love, as we have been loved. So, let us share God’s love with the world, for the world, for the sake of the world. If the day comes when there is a need for judgment, I am sure God will figure that all out.
— Tormod Svensson
Loving God, teach us to love more fully, more faithfully, more completely, the way you love all of us. Help us to be more inclusive and accepting of all people, following the example of your son. In Jesus name.