John 3:16…The Whole Enchilada
Anyone who calls themselves a writer who hasn’t submitted to the sharp red pen of an editor is a wimp. Another writer told me wisely not to cop an attitude against editors. They exist to make us better. At their best they look like this. In an Internet age, everyone’s a writer and an expert. Everyone blogs and writes reviews (like me). Subsidy companies will publish anybody who pays them. And a lot of it simply stands as bad writing “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” While working on my second book, since I was a big time author and full of myself, an editor said to me, “Tell me in one sentence what this new book is about. If you can’t do it, we will assume you don’t know.” Don’t know! I just wrote over two hundred pages on this!
God knows what His book is about. He can boil it down to one sentence. That sentence begins with “God“. His whole book centers around Himself. Is He stuck on Himself? No, it’s just that we use His name to describe a bunch of surrogates, frauds, fantasies and both self and wish projections we choose to embrace because we cannot handle or imagine the full picture of who He is. It’s like learning that our Grandma, a sweet and petite dear, has a secret life as a defenseman for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Ridiculous! Until we turn on Hockey Night in Canada to see Grandma, who baked us cookies and always prodded Grandpa to slip us a quarter every visit, on the ice in Montreal smashing a winger through the glass and into the laps and nachos of two kids rink side at their first hockey game. Even watching, our minds won’t let us believe it. So it is with our imagining God. And we don’t always want to know. So He tells His own story.
“…so loved the world..” Israel thought God was all about them. The temple in Jerusalem was the box where they kept Him all to themselves. The world sprawls out to include a lot more than just Israel. Any and all people stand in the crosshairs of His mercy. In loving the world, God does what John warns us about in I John 2:15-17: “Do not love the world nor the things in the world.” But in a much different way. John warns against loving the world as being part of it, both an accomplice to and a victim of its enticements and false values. God loves the world with an eye to making a filthy world clean. The world isn’t easy to love. Read a newspaper lately? Yesterday, my wife and I talked about five different situations we’d hit that day all reeking of suffering/evil. The evil garbage the world piles up every day stands millions of times higher than that, much of it flung at Him. It takes God all the power of God to love this place. And why should He give a rip anyway? Why doesn’t He just vaporize this beautiful blue grease spot in the cosmos and start with somebody new? We shut down and protect ourselves in a million ways from the full impact of the evil in our world. The little we do know about and can stand is revolting. But God tastes the individual suffering of billions of people full-bore, no dilution or deflecting. It weighs on Him like an elephant on each eyelid, violating His holiness.
He loves this broken, bleeding world that not only lies wounded by its own hand but turns around and scapegoats Him for it. A little secret, love is always a gift; it can never be earned or deserved. Forget the world. Why should God give a rip about us personally? What have we done to put Him in our debt? What unmet need does He have that we meet? What asset are we to Him that it’s a good deal for God to know and love us? What minus does God have that our plus compliments? Yeah, it beats me too. Anytime we can give a list of reasons as to why we love someone, we have a problem. What if the day comes when we’re not all that – not pretty, funny, rich, understanding, “cool”, “hot”, etc? Then what? Then it gets lonely and empty fast. Real love is never really “because of” but “in spite of“. The reasons always stack up more against us than for us. God gives a big rip about us personally in spite of a lot inside us that pushes people away. He gave us His only Son. Love always gives, gives the best and does it regardless of personal cost. In September of 1973, I met a girl at school. By December of 1973, we were engaged. My parents hardly knew this girl existed the night I called to tell them. Dad said, “Promise me you’ll finish your degree.” I said we had all that figured out (Young couples always do.). We would get married the next August and move to seminary and finish there. Dad said, “Promise me you’ll finish this year.” I said we had that all figured out too. Remember all that money in the bank for next semester? I took it all out to buy an engagement ring and wedding bands. But I got a janitorial job on campus and everything would be fine. I really wanted him to be happy about all this. I scrubbed garbage cans and mopped floors with a smile on my face because I loved this woman. We did tell our children this story and said if they did something like this to their mother and I that we’d kill them in their sleep. (My wife corrected me saying we’d actually do it while they were awake so they’d know who did it!) Love gives, gives extravagantly, know no limit of sacrifice and does it smiling. God so loved the world that He gave His One and Only Son…
…that whosoever believes in Him would not perish but have everlasting life. “Believing” is for more than just head stuff. Satan believes everything in the Bible. He didn’t always but he does now (See James 2:19). Satan is orthodox intellectually but seethes in flaming rebellion against everything he knows. “Believing” here means to put the whole weight of all that we are in body, mind and spirit on the truth that uniquely is Jesus only to find that the Jesus of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John is alive and wanting intimate, transforming friendship with us as He enlists in His magnificent Kingdom that will cleanse earth of all its sinful cancers. He loves us too much to wait until later and has already begun. When Jesus died, God cleaned out His bank account. The Father, Son and Spirit knead their hands through the world’s garbage with tears in their eyes but smiles on their faces because their hearts see past the garbage to the ones they love more than anything.
This summer will probably not find everyone in circumstances of their choice, maybe quite the opposite. God not only can boil His book down to one sentence; He knows precisely how this summer can make us lean harder on Him, put muscle and callous on our faith, drive the roots of our faith deeper in the middle of desert so that they crave nothing more than Him, teach us to love the unloveable and to hope for things none of this world’s enticements can match. In short, we will hit campus next fall looking more like Jesus than our scruffy selves (Please notice I summed up this post in one sentence. I am a professional. Children, do try this at home.).
Please like, share, follow, subscribe or all that other Facebook stuff if this helped you stay spiritually cool this summer. We have to stick with each other until the fall. Facebook our friends and pray for each other.
Please return your seats to the upright position and return your infrared night vision goggles to the attendant as you exit to the rear. See you next post at geezeronthequad.com