Good morning all! First of all, happy birthday to my brother Grant! Enjoy brotherman! Secondly, I am starting to get antsy to write again but I am so loving our guest bloggers. Thanks for the amazing input! And finally, our guest blogger today is a chosen sister of mine, April. April will tell you how we met but I must tell you that ts woman is passionate about social justice and living out her faith. She works at the seminary we met at, is wife to Vince and mom to two amazing little boys. I might be a bit biased. They do call me Tia. April has taught me so much about walking her faith and passionately living in the world. I think you will see what I mean…..
I met Courtney on one of my first days at seminary. We were both at a “meet and greet” gathering of new students. She said something interesting; I can’t really remember what it was now. But I remember going up to her and saying something like this, “We should be friends.” She said, “Ok.” And that was that. We were partners in crime. God loves you, Tia, and so do we. And there’s nothing you can do about it!
Courtney said I could pick any scripture I wanted or just use the daily lectionary reading. And the passage below was the Gospel text for the day. I decided that I would try to find something else. I mean, who really wants to write on probably the most well known Christian scripture. Not me. But then it stayed with me. What I realized is that while John 3:16 is probably the most recognized scripture, John 3:17 is the most widely ignored.
Yes, God so loved the world as to give the Only Begotten One, that whoever believes may not die but have eternal life. God sent the Only Begotten into the world not to condemn the world, but that through the Only Begotten the world might be saved. John 3:16-17 (The Inclusive Bible translation)
My friends would tell you that for a long time the “joke” was “April is always right.” I put it in quotes because, whether or not I was actually correct, I was ALWAYS right. My mother would tell you that I never lose an argument. (Hi, mom!) I do have a gift for speech and rhetoric. However, what used to accompany those gifts was the belief that I knew what was best in all situations for every person.
I have learned in the last seven years or so that my need to be right was my mechanism for feeling safe in the world. If I was always right, always perfect, then I could not experience pain, suffering, hurt feelings, etc. It didn’t occur to me that, in my quest to be right, I was hurting others. I was not hearing about their needs, wants, desires of their hearts, or even the most basic ideas of what they might want to have for dinner. And not only that, by protecting myself from these vulnerabilities, I was also inadvertently protecting myself from feeling deep connection, love, and grace.
God so loved the world that Jesus came to dwell among us, to show us the way to live, and to guide us to eternal life! But God did not send Jesus into the world to condemn the world but that the world might be saved. So often in our world, we Christians spread the news about Jesus and eternal salvation, but forget the part about not condemning the world. In fact, we skip right over that verse and go on to tell how our world is full of sinners who are living in darkness. And if you don’t find Jesus, then you might as well go to “you know where.”
Reading either of these verses alone waters down the message. God loves the world and with that comes eternal life, but what also comes with that is saving the world. Now, we certainly aren’t Jesus. We don’t have to save the world ourselves, but what we do need to do is spread the kind of love that saves the world. I have been a worker for justice since I was a very young child. I was always sticking up for those who were on the margins. And when we open ourselves up to God’s love – to the love God showed to us in the life of Jesus Christ – we can become a vessel of that love for others. In my need to be right, I was condemning anyone who didn’t fall into line with what I wanted or what I believed. And now I believe heartily that I don’t have it all together. I don’t have all the answers and am in no way perfect. And because of this, I can actually receive love and share that with others.
I don’t know how many of you know the Story People created by Brian Andreas. (You can check out his art and stories at http://www.storypeople.com.) They are short quirky stories with whimsical, colorful drawings. One of the stories that I encountered just yesterday was called “Big Strange Family.” Here it is on a tote bag, and it goes like this: I don’t think of it as working for world peace, she said. I think of it as just trying to get along in a really big strange family.
Note from Courtney here: I could get the pic to copy but check it out on the website for sure!
The more we experience God’s love, the more we can share it with others, and the less we will feel the need to condemn others for what we perceive to be their sins. Have we not all fallen short at some time or another? Can’t we all use a bit more love, compassion, and grace? I know I can!
For today, is there something in the way of you experiencing the love of God? In what ways (big or small) might you share that love with someone else? Can we be about the saving work of God together today? May it be so.