Loved! – forever
exploring John’s First Letter
Gospel ! as a prelude we look at where John is coming from in his first work.
John 3. 16 – 21
I didn’t know is often the response we find most natural when assured of another’s respect, or admiration. Like when you’ve struggled to master a piece of music or perform a difficult and esoteric task in which you seemed to be forever correcting yourself and throwing away hours of great work – sounds like my mother at her pottery wheel; solitary, anxious, exacting, perfectionist – almost prayerful. And finally out of the kiln comes an object which quickly draws praise from admiring friends. To which my mother’s response often was, “I didn’t know whether you’d
like it. I was afraid you’d hate it.”
Have you ever wondered what God really thought of you?…when the preachers and song-writers have been silenced and you have a moment with your own thoughts, what do you really believe? Is it the Destroyer of Sodom and Gomorrah or the patient and passionate lover of the harlot wife [see Hosea for more about that story]. Is He the Cosmic Kill-joy just waiting to catch you out so He can out you on His “naughty list”; or the God who’s continually rescuing His people from their own mess?
I’m going to give you the Biblical answer right now, which is He’s the God who first and foremost loves us with a passion that makes the most doting of us grandparents look icily distant; I’m doing this because I want to spend time showing you God as loving by looking at the letter of John, the apostle of love (and light).
Cherish or Perish? In a midnight encounter with one of the brigade of baleful watchers (aka Pharisees), Nicodemus by name, Jesus reveals a profound aspect to God’s nature that’s bound to startle his visitor. But here’s the key to this whole series that will look into John’s first letter, for God so loved!!!! That’s John’s key theme throughout his gospel and his letters (that and light). In calling Nicodemus to a new birth by the Spirit, Jesus assures him that the motivation for God’s extraordinary involvement with us is love (and agape at that.) Jesus’ mission is both the consequence and the revelation of the love of God. It may seem obvious, but this is love that is to be reciprocated (given back enthusiastically), but it’s also meant to shared, explored in it’s transforming power and grace, embraced and given away extravagantly. The love of God thus given unlocks the love, locked up in the hearts of responsive humankind – towards God, and each other. This is a burning theme in John that no-one else develops as he does.
So what does Jesus say to Nicodemus? That because of God’s astonishing love he does not want us to perish (even though we probably deserve it on our own). God invites us to cherish rather than perish, and yet in making such an invitation that terrible side of love shows up. While some readily, and others slowly, almost reluctantly, will embrace God and His offer of love, others will say no emphatically, that they don’t want to be obligated, or bound even in ties of grace and mercy. And their destiny is to perish even though that is not the Father’s desire for them.
Trust the light It’s with this mission of loving embrace that Jesus is sent; sent to free us from destruction, but also to be the Light that either attracts or repels, and therein decides the destiny of each and every creature. Part of the decision is already determined in our propensity for either good or evil, some would say it is predestined.
The trouble with light is that it’s dispassionately revealing: just like the mirror by which an actor adjusts her make-up, it’s surrounded by lights so that any blemishes or faults are clearly revealed and the make-up is perfect from every aspect. Of course I love light and the clarity it brings, but there are those who find light intrusive and fear it’s penetrating exposure. I’ve noticed that when police stop someone who keeps stepping back out of the light they become quickly suspicious – usually for good reason. So those who have nothing to hide, or want nothing hidden from the Loving Presence, are glad to come into the light; but those who are ashamed or have a desire to keep things away from Divine exposure think dark will hide them: haven’t they heard: “even the darkness:
is not dark to You
the night is as bright as the day,
for the darkness is as light to you.” Psalm 139.12
What is happening here is the promised convicting work of the Holy Spirit, operating under the light of Jesus’ living presence. The difference is that whether one is doing good or evil, if one is living in the light, one is leaving room for the righteousness of God to influence and direct and empower, whereas those who choose to stay out of the light, are leaving no room for the righteousness of God…they are already demonstrating their separation from God and his grace in Christ. So even when I’ve strayed I am happy to be in the light so that even if my wrong is exposed a least there is an opportunity to be corrected and lovingly lead back to the right path, into the favourable regard of my loving Saviour, through His forgiving grace and mercy.
Welcome the light and choose to be cherished rather than to perish. Allow the One who has no limit to His astonishing mercy to put you right, to cleanse, to re-direct, to empower, to affirm. To walk in the light is to take a movable environment of hope, peace, love and of godly good health wherever we go. Isn’t that what we all want?