This is an article I wrote for a local newspaper's Religion column.
I think one of the most important verses in the entire Bible comes right after one of he most well known.
In the third chapter of John’s Gospel, a leader of the Temple, Nicodemus came to see Jesus at night. Nicodemus wanted to understand what Jesus was teaching. After their discussion about how people must be born from above, Jesus explained what his mission on Earth is.
16 (Jesus said,) “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 17 Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. 20 For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. 21 But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.” (John 3:16-21 NRSV)
The verse of John 3:16 is the second most well known piece from all of Scripture behind Psalm 23. But I think the next verse has the more important theological insight.
John 3:17 says that Jesus was not sent to judge us, but that through him, we may be saved. Not just us, but all of creation. That verse doesn’t get quoted anywhere near as much as its predecessor, but it should. Because we love to think Jesus is going to condemn a lot of people, particularly, those who don’t agree with us.
Throughout John’s Gospel, he makes a lot of references to light and darkness. He refers to those who don’t believe in Jesus Christ as living in darkness. I think of it as turning their back on the Light. If you stand outside on a bright, sunshiny day and turn away from the sun, you notice that you cast a large shadow. You can’t see the light, and instead live in darkness.
I believe it is the same as when we turn our back on the Light, and turn away from the Son. We live in the darkness, and we cast a large shadow.
When we think we have done too much to be loved by God, we turn away from the Light, and we live in a darkness of our own making. But if we turn, ever so slightly, we see the Light, we are warmed by the Light.
When we feel alone and without value, we prefer the darkness. The darkness has its own culture and rules. If I don’t value myself, why would I value you or anyone or anything else?
But the Light is love, and acceptance, and mercy. We think that the Light exposes and shames. But the Light is a beacon. The Light is a signal to come home. If we can remember that the Son of God came into our world to save the world, and not to condemn it; if we can remember that the Son of God asks us only to believe that He is who he said He is, and trust in his call, then we are His.
Too often, we think with human hearts and minds, and recall all of the times we came up short and disappointed ourselves, and others, and we think we’ve disappointed God as well.
But God’s mind, and heart, are not human. God’s love is divine. God’s love is for all of the people, all of the world, and all of creation.
God’s love is expressed in the Light that has come into the world, if only we can bring ourselves to turn and embrace it.
May you embrace the Light of God’s Love.
Pastor Brian Robert Campbell
ONE in Christ Lutheran Parish
Our Savior’s + Greenwood; Nazareth + Withee, Emmanuel + Longwood
Pastor Brian's Page
Pastor Brian Robert Campbell has served at Our Savior's and Emmanuel since August 1, 2011, and began serving Nazareth on December 1, 2015.
Pastor Brian is originally from Saginaw, Michigan. He graduated from Alma College with a B.A. in Business Administration, and worked for the Saginaw Public Schools' Community Education Department for 17 years before answering the call to ministry. He graduated with a M. Div. from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg in 2011. ONE in Christ Lutheran Parish is his first call.
He is the only child of Robert and Charlotte Campbell, both who have entered the Church Eternal.
He is accompanied in ministry by his faithful bulldogge Ananias, who regularly writes for our newsletter. His articles are archived here.
He is a fan of sports teams from his native Michigan, especially the Tigers and the Lions. But we tolerate him despite that.
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