Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Jn 3:17

The first Bible verse I ever memorized, growing up in the Baptist Church, was John 3:16

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

I can still recite it and consider it a key verse in our faith. Many can recite some translation of this verse. But can we recite the next verse? I couldn't.

John 3:17

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.

We call it the good news but how many of us have not really internalized this verse. The ultimate will of God is that the entire world be saved. The world used here is kosmos. God created the world good, and God wills that in the end the entire kosmos be restored. If anyone is not saved, it must be by their own choosing.

Are there non-Christians who caricature our faith as harsh and condemnatory? Yes. But an even worse problems is that there are Christians, Catholics, who have the dark and judgmental image of God. St. John Paul II felt it necessary to designate the Second Sunday of Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday. But the mercy of God is not our message for one Sunday, it is our message every Sunday. Every day of the week, if we are truly Christian, we celebrate the love and the mercy of God.

God sent his son into the world, so that the world might be saved

This is the reason why the Catholic Church does not teach that non-Christians cannot be saved. We say baptism is the only certain way to be saved. But we simultaneously recognize that God's love and mercy cannot be limited.

The only people we know will not be saves are those who know Jesus Christ and freely choose to reject him. In such a case it is not God who condemns; God simply gives the person what they want, separation from God.

If Jesus did not come into the world to condemn who are we to condemn. Even as some of us like to vilify "the media" we should stop to think that every one of those people are loved by God, and should be loved by us. We can simultaneously disagree and love. It's part of what makes Christianity difficult.

Looking at well known bad actors, Vladimir Putin, for example, has said that his mother secretly had him baptized, as many did in soviet Russia. I pray regularly that the Holy Spirit given him in baptism help him to do what is best for his country and the world.
But we should pray also for non-Christian world leaders, that God provide them with wisdom. Bashar al- Asaad, the president of Syria should be a regular part of our prayer.

Of the last decade has taught us anything it is that war is not the way to peace.

Let's remember John 3:16 and John 3:17. And Pray.