William Frank Bellais
“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. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God” (John 3:16-21)
The Scriptural verse,John three-sixteen, is the heart of the Good News and purpose of Jesus Christ. If we are to sum up the Gospel message, it is in these words. We see them proclaimed on signs out on Interstate 40 east of Amarillo,Texas. The citation, John 3:16, shows up on the piers of highway overpasses and on the bumpers of cars and trucks. The secret code, John 3:16, is seen on television at sporting events. John-three-sixteen is ubiquitous to the point of causing those important words to become trivial and trite. Nevertheless, the words, “God so loved the world…” are significant; their overuse or over citation do not trivialize them. Further, the gift of Jesus to the world brings life to faith. As John writes at the beginning of his Gospel account, Jesus came into the world as the Word, the Logos, of God. Jesus came into the world; he did not fly above it, or simply go about as a spirit, but as a living being sharing life with humanity.
That is the Good News of God and believing in that Good news gives to us the opportunity to experience God in the reality of being not merely as an abstraction.
Paul wrote to Thessalonian Church,
So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us (1 Thessalonians 2:8).
In the CREDO Lenten meditations, Michael Battle, the Provost and Canon Theologian at the Cathedral of Saint Paul in Los Angeles, commented on the Apostle’s reflection,
Paul reminds the…Church…to accompany the gospel with our very selves. The gospel can neither be (Sic.) abstract nor detached from ourselves. Both must accom-pany the other. When material resources become ends in them-selves, when the goods of the earth take control over the people of the earth, there is no accompaniment. The pro-cess of turning our lives over to the power of God and coming under God’s life-giving influence in-volves the dynamic of seeking and finding the reign of God.
The reign of God is a reign of life-giving love that raises us out of the gloom and darkness of the mundane into a new and brilliant light. Paul, again, captures the idea in the words he wrote to the Church in Ephesus,
God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ… (Ephesians 2:4-5a).
The truth, as Paul sees it, is that in Christ Jesus, we share life and that new life shared is a gift of God. It is only by the fact that God so loved the world that the grace of life in Christ is ours. However, the gift of life began early in God’s relationship with humanity. He breathes the spirit of life into Adam and into Eve. He encounters Abraham and Sarah and instills life into them that ultimately becomes Israel and the river of life from which the Messiah will shower living water.
Jesus describes himself in the words from John. Not only is he the gift of God that saves the world from its evil trespasses, he also turns the darkness and gloom of the world into light. The light of Christ is the promise of the prophets. Isaiah pronounces that a new light has come (Isaiah 60:1), which the people of God are to reflect.
Paul’s reminder to the Thessalonians and to the Ephesians that they are the continuation of the Gospel; the Gospel the world experiences through a reflection of Christ to the world. Followers of Jesus are not the torch that gives light but the reflection of the light. By that, I mean Jesus has come to bring light to the world and will declare himself the light. In that reality Christians cannot be the light but must reflect Christ Jesus. They reflect Christ by what they do and say and by how they welcome the stranger and reach to relieve a suffering world.
Paul also wrote to the Ephesians,
… for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore, it says, “Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (Ephesians 5:14).
Everything becomes visible in the light of Christ. Everything becomes lively and meaningful in that holy light. Paul shouts at us through the millennia to “Wake up to see the light.” And as we awake to Christ’s light Christians become like the moon and stars glowing with beauty despite the ugliness all around them.