Why did Jesus come into the world? We often land on the famous line of John’s gospel; “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”(John 3:16) This verse is a reflection upon the nature of individuals who have come to know Jesus. It is indeed a verse of comfort for those who have come to believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior. However, I am struck even more so by the next verse in John’s gospel because it takes the mission of Jesus beyond thinking, only in terms of individuals, to embracing the work of Jesus for all the world. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:17). We, who declare ourselves followers of Jesus Christ, are well served if we take the time to reflect upon this description of Jesus’ purpose in the world, “that the world might be saved through him.” Easter is fast upon us and in this great celebration we recall Jesus’ victory over sin and death. This great festival of the Church is a way of declaring that, through Christ, God has accomplished his goal in saving the world. The struggle for Christians is that the very victory we declare we also doubt. Jesus died for your sins, sounds good, but then we qualify this good news with all the things that you had better do… or else! Our ongoing problem is that we always want to qualify the good news of Easter. “Jesus died for your sins, But…” It is in the qualifiers that we run into trouble. Jesus saves… “as long as you believe” “as long as you say a specific prayer, or do a specific act or acts of contrition.” Then and only then are you really considered to be saved. Suddenly the work of Jesus is incomplete; it is only a partial work of salvation and it is up to us to do the rest; is that what we believe? Hear what Paul says ” 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:4-9) The work of Jesus upon the cross and in his resurrection is complete, consequently all people are to be seen in light of the great Easter proclamation and we, who see ourselves as followers of Jesus, are to act accordingly in all that we say and do; this applies to all aspects of our lives. God sent Jesus in order that the world might be saved through him. It is not our place to put limits on God’s love, rather it is our task to proclaim that love and make it real in the world. In an ideal world it would all be so simple, but we all know that in our world we face less than ideal circumstances. Polarization has torn the fabric of our society. I remember when social problems in our country were acknowledged by people of goodwill, Democrats and Republicans would seek solutions, each offering solutions from differing perspectives. Now our two-party system seems to have disintegrated into warring camps that no longer seem to share any mutual interests or interest in compromise. Racism, sexism, xenophobia, push people to extremes where we no longer see mutual interests or needs and consequently see no need for compassion or civility with those we now deem as our enemy or at least our opponent. We have equated life to being a game where there are winners and there are losers. As long as we can view those opposed to us as different we have no problem with their loss as long as we win. Again, in John 3:17 we must remember that, Jesus came in order that the world might be saved, and that this is fully inclusive language. In this day and age it means that we who represent the body of Christ must in all cases challenge the language of polarity. We must speak out against any circumstance where we think it is okay to have winners and losers. This life God has given us is not a game and when any group of people loses, in the end we all lose. How do we begin? Jesus, by his life, revealed that we begin by caring for the most vulnerable people of the world; “But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” (Matthew 19:30) This means that for most of us we must put aside our wants and desires so that the least may finally have a place at the table of the Lord. No matter our place in life, this is what we are called to do in order that we, for our part, can make real for others, the hope of salvation. What an honor has been bestowed upon us that we can serve the Lord in such a wonderful way. In our willingness to serve the risen Lord we make real the wonder of Easter.
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