Thursday, May 5, 2011
That doesn't mean what you think it means
This closing of today's gospel reads, "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him." The wrath of God is death. For John it really is a matter of life and death.
The greek word translated here as disobey is the word άπειθεω, apeitheo, but it is much more than the English word, apathy. It means a stubborn, headstrong unwillingness to be convinced. It would have been much simpler if the gospel had divided the world into two groups. Those who believe and those who don't. In Greek it would have meant using the same verb in both halves of the sentence with the prefix α- on the second one to make the negative. It would have been perfect parallel construction. Those who believe have eternal life; those who don't believe will not see eternal life.
But that's not what the text says. Why? Because life is not that simple. The gospel is not that simple. We like the world in binary choices: black or white, good or bad. We want to make life simpler than it is. True Christianity embraces the complexity of life and the love of God for every person, created in the image and likeness of God.
This week, as some Americans were disgracing themselves by dancing in the streets at the death of Osama bin Laden, our church was reminding us of the sacredness of every human life, even his.