The Forgotten Verse

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son,

that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

This verse is so popular, it has, perhaps become one of the most quoted verses in the Western hemisphere. During the 2011 Super Bowl, one Christian foundation attempted to buy an ad that had John 3:16 as its focus, but the ad was rejected. To this day, people hold up signs around televised football stadiums that simply say, “John 3:16.” You can find the chapter and verse on bumper stickers, necklaces and bracelets. You can even buy it on a refrigerator magnet. But has all this mania cheapened the message.

And have we become so focused on that verse as a slick mantra we’ve conveniently forgotten the context in which the verse was said and the verse that directly follows?

©The Bible Series
©The Bible Series

Nicodemus, a leading Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin, came to Jesus at night to speak with him privately. The Pharisees, unlike the Sadducees, believed in resurrection, an afterlife, and in the coming of a Messiah. His first statement to Jesus confirms his respect and belief in Jesus.

“Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”

Jesus intentionally confirms to Nicodemus he has been born again; Nicodemus doesn’t see it yet.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Jesus, with compassion and love, takes the time to explain to Nicodemus in detail how this can be so, ending with, “whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”

And here are the two verses together (emphasis mine):

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” (John 3:16-17)

The Greek word used for judge is krino, which means to judge, call to account, vindicate, condemn.

Well, if God did not send Jesus into the world to judge, then who am I to judge? Who am I to call to account? Who am I to seek revenge? Who am I to condemn? Shame on me if I do!

Now, lest you think I’m ignoring what else Jesus says, here is how he completes his thought to Nicodemus that night:

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the Light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their actions were evil. All those who do wrong fear coming to the Light because their actions will be exposed. But whoever does the right thing comes to the Light because those things – those thoughts, those words, those actions – have been carried out through God. (John 3:18-21)

So let’s examine what Jesus says here.

Whoever does not believe is condemned already. Well, we know Jesus didn’t condemn them because Jesus only does the will of our Father, and clearly, “God did not send the Son into the world to judge (condemn) the world.” Who did? It must be God. So if God has already condemned, it would be superfluous for us to do so, and certainly an insult for us to do God’s job.

And this is the judgment: Wow! Did you actually read this? The Light – Jesus – has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the Light. The judgment is that people choose darkness instead of the Light. This is the hell of one’s own making – to fear coming to the Light because their actions will be exposed.

This, to me, is profound. We never need to point fingers at anyone. We never need to tell anyone they are going to hell. Many are already there; and the many include those of us who call ourselves Christians. And we need to look deeply into our own hearts before we ever accuse, judge or condemn anyone else.

Our own actions, words and thoughts are exposed every day.

“Truly, I say to you, as you did to one of the least of these, you did to me.” (Matthew 25:40)

“I’m giving you a new commandment: Love each other in the same way that I have loved you. Everyone will know you are my disciples because of your love for each other.” (John 13:34-35)

Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”

“No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “But seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:21-22)

And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” (Mark 8:34)

“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you; (Luke 6:27)

“If you love me, you will obey my commandments.” (John 14:15)

Forgiveness – God Broke My Abacus

Matthew 18:21-22     New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Forgiveness

21 Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus *said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.


 

[But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions.”] In Context | Full Chapter | Other Translations


Once upon a time, I used to get ticked off when someone stole from me, accused me of something I didn’t do, lied about me, lied to me, broke a promise to me… etc. etc.

Then… *sigh*… God would prompt, and I would have to “forgive” them.

That is, I’d have to refrain from hitting them, cussing them out, telling everyone I knew what a worthless piece of trash they were… etc., etc.

Then… *sigh*… God prompted further, saying that wasn’t enough. I was constraining my “reaction” to their offense, but I still held that “score point” in my heart. I knew, deep in my heart, that they “owed me”! And one day, whether here or in the hereafter, I expected them or God to “make good” on the I.O.U.

That is, I had to “forgive them from my HEART”… I had to stop clinging to that precious I.O.U. I had to take my spirit strong box of stored up I.O.U’s and chits that I had so carefully preserved across the years, and burn the lot of them. That strong box and its contents were “binding” my own offenses in the memory of Our Father.

Well… drat! I really LIKED my strong box and my collection. I’d worked really hard across the years to make sure my “intake” was vastly greater on those I.O.U’s than my “output”. And now… I had to burn them! Drat!

Then… *sigh*… God prompted further, saying that wasn’t enough. I had to throw away the strong box, and “learn to burn” the chit, the I.O.U., the very next moment after it was written. I could “feel” the offense, and “flare” with my reaction of indignation… but then I had (as instantly as possible)… to release it, and let the moment float off into the Cosmos, restoring the relationship as quickly and totally as possible. Drat!

So, across the years, my “adrenalin fix” reduced. My righteous indignation quotient lessened, and somehow… right about here…. Jesus was finally able to make Himself “utterly heard” in my heart with “Love others as I love… and, by the way, what did *I* forgive… how much, how many, how completely?” Drat!


And then one day, unexpectedly, I awoke in the early morning hours inside the body of Jesus as He hung on the cross, just minutes from expiration. As I struggled to breathe, I felt Him… from the inside. Alongside the (fairly) obvious discomfort, the struggle just to take in air, breath by shuddering breath, I remember looking up… looking out… at the crowd… jeering, mocking, spitting, waving fists and sandals, some (very few) weeping… and I remember suddenly feeling a rush of love, of concern, of protection FOR them… as a parent feels for their baby child. I remember the words parting His cracked lips… “Father, forgive them! They don’t know… they don’t know what they do.” And then, a brief time later, “It is finished!” And there was no more struggling for breath.

There are no words, Gentle Reader… no words at all for the condition in which I returned to my own easy breathing, my own ability to sit upright and see my own room, that morning. But beyond all that…

God Broke My Abacus!

Finally, totally and completely, beyond all words and meaning, my heart was now permanently emblazoned with…

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” [1 Corinthians 13:4-7]

From that morning to this, um… I seldom even notice “offense”, and it’s almost a joke with those among whom I walk that to “offend” me you really have to be trying. Further… I am SO TOTALLY aware, that not only am I NOT the Holy Spirit (so far above my pay grade…), I am not and cannot play the role of anyone else’s conscience… (I would so totally mess up the job)… that I “discuss the sins of other specific people” only with THAT person, and only when THEY ask me something about “life, the universe, and everything”.

“Why?” you may ask… “How?”… “What in the world entices anyone to discuss their sin or discomforts of conscience with you?”

It’s a secret. A secret Jesus taught me. You just “love them as if they weren’t sinning”. You love that person as if they were sacred, special, and beloved. You love them as if you had respect and regard FOR them. In fact, you treat them as “holy”, as if they were the very person Jesus came for… lived for… died for… rose for…

Love people as if they COULD NOT offend you, because their sins were forgiven by the power of Jesus’ words to the Father AT the Cross…

Do that, and  you know what happens?

You don’t have to keep counting anymore. You don’t have to count up to 490… anticipating that, “By gum, when they get to 491.. ‘WHAM!’ are they gonna get it!”

You don’t have to keep score, collect chits, box up treasures that bind and chain you…

You set them free. You set the Holy Spirit free. You don’t have to “forgive” nearly so often, because you don’t get wounded and hurt in the first place.

Oh… and you set yourself free to be forgiven by Our Father as well!


Yup, I’ve never missed my Abacus!

Grace to you!

The Little Monk