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When the wise Jewish teacher, Nicodemus, sought out Jesus one night, he had many questions for Christ. One of his questions evoked this (famous) response from Jesus:
“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16ff)
Later, the night Jesus was betrayed and delivered for crucifixion, he was praying to his Father and part of his prayer is recorded in John 17: [he]”…said, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son so he can give glory back to you. For you have given him authority over everyone. He gives eternal life to each one you have given him. And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth. I brought glory to you here on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. Now, Father, bring me into the glory we shared before the world began. …..[and]…“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me… I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you… I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began!”
Love, unity, sacrificial loving familial relationships, and glory are all tied together in his prayer–why? because the foundation, the roots, the soil, the tree and the branches of Christianity are founded in God’s relational love. The parent-child relationship is inherently sacrificial and selfless, finding the lines between parent and child is hard to outline yet but easily recognizable. There is a natural, organic unity that grows out of that love. We cry for world peace, and never achieve it. Yet Christ offers us unity in Him: what is the cost to us? It’s a great cost: for we have to abandon our natural inclination to be calling the shots, to be in charge. Yet, we receive love from God, not out of fulfilling obligations, and vows, callings, sacrifices, gifts, grace, or determination. We receive it only when we can abandon our self-centeredness. This special love is from the Holy Spirit, as Christ promises, who gives it to everyone. Love is the great identifier of those who are Christ-followers, no matter what global location, and no matter what period in history.
The time of the year preceding Easter which we call Lent should be a time of soul-searching. Upon winding up Lent I (ironically) feel less worthy of the Father’s love, yet, as ironically, I am so more sensitized to receiving it for I am in the right frame of mind–after this prolonged period of self-imposed silence and prayer. Yet…it is at this point that I find I am close to being tripped up! I am tempted to either becoming overblown by my sense of spiritual greatness (lol!) or I am susceptible to thoughts going in contrary to that: I would pull back out of inferiority to Christ, but then make my life somehow smaller, more easily define (as I wish not to ” blow it.”) Indeed, some people cover up this kind of timidity with the veil called “living in His will” a kind of superficial super-spiritually sounding “easy button” which shields them from having to be honest and take the risk of living in love and opening up to God.
Of course, both types of errors close down the avenue of His grace. Overblown pride and false modesty both do us –and our world– a terrible wrong. John reminds us in the first epistle:
“Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.
Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us. And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us. ” (I John 4 NLT)
May you enter into the Father’s embrace!