“God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” – John 3:17 NLT
For Pop and Bushi
No, I didn’t accidentally use the wrong scripture above; I feel like enough has been made of John 3:16 that it would be a waste of time to expound upon it here. Far better men than I have written volumes. Instead, I would like to spend some time with the verse that follows one of the New Testament’s most famous.
My step-dad, a semi-retired Presbyterian minister, has referred to John 3:17 as his favorite, and it’s not hard to see why. Too often, Christians use the Bible to judge those who disagree with them on a given issue. They judge the LGBTQ community, they judge women who have abortions, they judge people of other religions or even other denominations of their own religion. Their basis of judgment typically comes from the Old Testament’s Book of Leviticus (laws), which is incredibly ironic given than Jesus came to establish a new covenant or law ( Luke 22:20, 1 Corinthians 11:25, 2 Corinthians 3:6, Hebrews 8:8, Hebrews 9:15 and Hebrews 12:24 to name a few).
(Take a moment to watch my all-time favorite TV moment which addresses the issues with judging others using the Old Testament. Just click HERE. I’ll wait! Tell me what you think in the comments below.)
What did Jesus mean when he said he came to establish a new law? Fortunately, unlike much of the Bible, there isn’t a whole of interpretation required. He spelled it out quite plainly in the Gospel of Mark, the earliest surviving source of the words spoken by Jesus of Nazareth. Quite simply, following Jesus requires adhering to only two laws: (1) love God with your heart, soul and mind and (2) love your neighbor as yourself. It’s also quoted in Matthew, but Matthew was rewriting/adapting from Mark, so it’s not surprising.
So how would Jesus feel about the LGBTQ community? According to his laws, he would love them as he loves himself with no judgment.
How would he feel about women who have abortions and the men who put them in that position? He would love them as he loves himself with no judgment.
What about Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, etc? He would undoubtedly do as he did with Zacchaeus, the tax collector, breaking bread with them and sharing God’s love. He would love them as he loves himself with no judgement.
Besides, the great teachers of Islam, Judaism and Buddhism taught virtually the same things Jesus himself taught! In fact, the teachings of Siddhattha Gotama (now referred to as the Buddha) are so close to those of Jesus that many have suggested that Jesus may have studied Buddhism himself.
(Don’t believe me? Google it. I’ll wait here.)
(See! I told you!)
(My favorite book on this subject, which happens to be edited by my favorite theologian, can be found here.)
What about terrorists? Jesus would love them as he loves himself.
Need I go on? There were no asterisks in the text and Jesus did not, according to scripture, discriminate in any way. In John 8:3-11 there is even the story of a woman caught in adultery and brought to Jesus, who refused to judge her. If he were to return today he would no doubt be sporting a Hard Rock Cafe t-shirt with the “Love All, Serve All” slogan across the front. Maybe he’d even have John Lennon, Glenn Frye and Freddie Mercury with him!
Ok, I digress.
Love your neighbor as yourself is just about the easiest Biblical concept to master, which is why we teach it to kindergartners and call it “The Golden Rule.” It’s simple. Why, then, do we try to make it so complicated as adults?
Maybe because we’ve spent too much time studying John 3:16 and we forget to keep reading.
Believing in and following Jesus does, indeed, bring salvation. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind about that. Embracing his teaching of unconditional love certainly liberates the mind and spirit. Judgment is too complicated. Don’t do it! Hate leads to the Dark Side, so don’t do it! Envy, violence, drugs…these are all paths that lead us away from the light. Salvation can certainly come in the form of love, as when you allow love to permeate your being it can help you let go of the things that steal your peace.
Did God so love the world that he sent his only son, hoping we would believe in him and through him find salvation? I don’t find that to be a huge stretch. I know from personal experience that the two commandments Jesus of Nazareth delivered “unto us” can guide you down a true path to peace and enlightenment.