“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” ( John 3:16 NIV )
Perhaps one of the most quoted passages in the Bible. Perhaps the single most important verse. The one line that can sum up what everything else in the Bible is laying the foundation for. It is this one line- like a one sentence guarantee in a long written contract, that God is telling us; no matter what your situation is in life or what sins you have committed- you are being offered the promise of eternal life.
Throughout scripture, indeed throughout his life- Jesus is embracing or found in the company of those many of us would consider “undesirables”. Unlike Jesus, we are quick to condemn and judge. We point fingers and offer our unsolicited opinion, as well as our expertise- and how people should live their lives. On the other hand, Jesus surrounded himself with prostitutes, tax collectors, the sick, the insane, the destitute and dispossessed. Any and all forms on the social maladies affecting mankind, Jesus would be with them and embraced them. Inviting and encouraging. They sought to be with him. Jesus belonged to them, even before they believed or, for that matter- behaved.
There are many people- many religions and religious leaders, who seek to impose their judgment upon others. Their morality. From the pulpit, there are those who would state the requirements of those needed to be accepted by God or entitled to His love. These clerics will issue the criterion by which it will be determined who is worthy of God or accepted by God.
They must remember, God is love. Jesus is love. Jesus is grace and mercy. In his book, Jesus Is– Pastor Judah Smith warns us; “when the sin becomes more important that the sinner, an alarm bell should go off in our heads.” God sees us and accepts us unconditionally as we are. With whatever sins, faults or baggage we carry with us. Society is quick to judge and condemn the sinner; forgetting for the most part that their own guilt and shame torment them. “All they [ the sinner ] can see,” Pastor Smith continues, “is a Jesus who glares down from the ceiling of a cathedral or hangs bloodied on a cross. They heard that Jesus was a good man, but do they know he is a close friend of sinners? Do they know that he is not angry with them? Do they know he is here to help?”
Pastor Smith shares a most profound though- Jesus is not angry with them- with us. Perhaps, like a good close personal friend, Jesus is disappointed- much as we are disappointed in ourselves for our shortfalls, but he is not angry with us. We are probably more angry with ourselves.
But Jesus is there for us- always. He understands our concerns and anxieties, and God has already addressed answered these in his once sentence guarantee. Our contract with God. Iron clad. “Whoever believes”
God has not reserved his great promise of eternal life and salvation for the righteous. Not only for the faithful or the weekly church goers. It is not just for the ones who can quote chapter and verse from scripture and those who are chaste or beyond reproach. Indeed eternal life and salvation is not just for the saints- but for the sinner as well. Pastor Smith writes; “whether we are good people or bad people, whether we have followed Jesus for decades or are just now finding him, whether we are pastors or prostitutes- we all need Jesus.”
So God has given us his guarantee. His unconditional love, acceptance, forgiveness and salvation. It is in Christ Jesus. “that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” ( John 3:16 NIV )