Reflections on John 3:16-18 Part 2


The Bible in Your life and Your Life in the Bible

" God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him " (John 3:15)


The person who gives must also learn to receive. I learnt this lesson late in life. Once an unemployed person said angrily to me “you give to me, but you will not allow me to give to you”. He felt offended, belittled. I learned my lesson and this led me to be more discerning. We should not give if we cannot learn to receive; we should not receive unless we are prepared to give. God preserve us, however, from the temptation of giving in order to receive or receiving before giving. This is the secular model which has self at the centre. The Christian model is not self-centred:

“When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Luke 14:12-14)
Giving and receiving in love, this is what our passage is all about. God gave, we receive and in return we hand over to him our wounded humanity, our limitations, all of ourselves. We surrender all. The reciprocity of love, the dynamism of life is the force that conquers the hardest of hearts, it is the strength that sustains the weakest of the weak, it is the power that sustains and guides the whole of humanity with its successes and its failures as it moves towards being summed up in Christ (Ephesians 1:10).

In accepting Jesus Christ, God’s gift to mankind, we accept the boundless love of the Father, we accept the Father himself: “I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (John 14:10), “whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me” (Matthew 10:40). When we accept this gift we enter into a whirlpool of love, we are drawn into its centre and so overwhelmed by it and so filled by it that it inevitably overflows abundantly towards those with whom we come into contact for it is the “love of Christ that urges us on” (2 Corinthians 5:14). It never fails to resonate with others and awaken a yearning in them to participate in that power of love. A chain of divine love is created. As it is passed on so it also comes back to us creating reciprocity and solidarity. This is the force that creates lasting communities and personal relationships. It is such a dynamic process that it is irresistible. Whenever we proclaim this message the reaction is either one of acceptance, reciprocity and solidarity or aggressive refusal. No one remains indifferent to it. It can draw people and render them open to the message or render them aggressively antagonistic. Anyone actively involved in proclaiming the Gospel message will experience both reactions.

Those who are receptive and accept Jesus, the gift of love, become deeply aware of being loved and appreciated, they experience completeness and loneliness is overcome. They discover that love has sought them out and found them, not the other way round. Love possesses them and they possess love. Their lives are transformed, they are a new creation.

Let no one say that he or she is not loved, that is the biggest illusion of the century, an illusion that many people hang onto and which leads to self-abasement, self-destruction and not self-fulfillment according to the plan of God for us. God’s plan for us is to be loved and he loves each one of us individually and God’s plan for us is that we should transmit that love to others, not our own natural human love but that same God-given love, that all-inclusive, undiscriminating, selfless love, that love that includes one’s enemies, that boundless love that draws others into that same dizzy whirlpool, that same divine intoxication: “Do not get drunk with wine … but be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18) That union with the Father, in the Son and through the Holy Spirit is Paradise itself; that for which we were all intended. We can say ‘yes’ or we can say ‘no’ to this offer. We can say ‘no’ in our own strength, we can say ‘yes’ only in and through the Holy Spirit. Whatever choice is made is carried over from this life to the next hence the word ‘eternal’ life. The final destiny of each individual is sealed in this life and depends on one choice, ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to Jesus Christ. There is no middle ground.

To say ‘no’ to Jesus Christ, ‘no’ to the gift of the Father, ‘no’ to love, is the way of death, a continuation of the curse the first couple brought upon itself the results of which are only too evident in our world. Saying ‘no’ means shutting oneself off from life itself. It is the way to sadness, discouragement, despair, destruction, death. Beware of saying ‘no’ as it leads ultimately and terrifyingly to radical loneliness even in the physical company of others.

If life is not relevant then neither is Jesus Christ; if relationships are not relevant then neither is Jesus Christ. He is seen as irrelevant by those who are imprisoned in the dark fortress of solitude, isolation, alienation, hatred, grudges, despair, violence, exploitation. He becomes irrelevant for those who are in this place and are happy to remain in this place of terrifying death rather than abundant life. That fortress in which people keep their riches to themselves, where the joy of sharing is unknown or that fortress in which the poor are forever dreaming of becoming rich and where life just wastes away in an ocean of dreams. That fortress in which social success, sometimes achieved at the expense of others, serves only to inflate one's ego. That fortress in which people cling onto their power over people rather than for people is a human wasteland. That place in which many are now imprisoned has a name. That name is Hell, the place of death, the place of the condemned here and now. If you are in that kind of fortress then Jesus Christ seems irrelevant to you. However, Jesus Christ becomes even more relevant to you than you think, more relevant to you than to others, more relevant because your need is greater.

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