Read Verse 17 Too

A reading for Thursday, December 18, 2014: John 3:16-21.

Some have said John 3:16 is the most known passage of the Christian Bible. We see it on bumper stickers, people tattoo it on their bodies, and athletes wear it on their eye black during professional football games. "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." It is the fundamental truth of the gospel to be sure.

Make sure, however, that we continue to read John 3:17 and further when we read. God did not intend that Christians would be evacuated out of the world, and sent on to heaven leaving the world that God created behind. "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." It's a terrible misinterpretation of the text to make John 3:16 and 17 only about personal salvation and my way to heaven.

Instead, what the gospel of John is about in it's entirety is the plan God has been working since the beginning of time to redeem this world. From the cosmic prologue right up until the beloved apostle, John tells the story of how God is transforming all of creation into the intention of goodness and peace that God first demonstrated in the Garden of Eden. A place where sin no longer remains and all people are able to dwell with God and one another for the rest of time. This is the eternal life promised by the love of God. This is the shalom we long for. We do not simply escape to heaven, like those in a life boat fleeing a sinking ship, but participate with God in bringing heaven to earth.

Look around and see how far we still have to journey with the Lord our God. Individualism and selfishness are up, community and service to others is down. Violence and fear are on the rise, while trust in one another to find common grounds of peace seem to harder to find. "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

We will not find the answers we long for in only saving ourselves. Only in participating in the mission of God to redeem all of creation is true and lasting Christian hope to be found...


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