Who Are You, Really?
Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
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.
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. John 3:11-17
John 3:16 is one of, if not the most well-known and well-loved verses in the Bible. For many, it’s a perfect summary of the entire Christian faith. Jesus loved us so much He was willing to die for those who believe in Him. However, as Pastor Greg pointed out on Sunday, verse 17 is often ignored. This is a shame, because John 3:17 may actually be an even better example of what Christian life is supposed to be about.
The phrase “whoever believes in Him” is probably part of the reason verse 16 is so much more popular. It puts us Christians in a separate category, more special and important than the rest. It also, as Pastor Greg again said, makes it sound like Christianity is purely between the individual and Jesus. If the only thing someone knew of our faith was John 3:16, they’d likely think simply believing in Jesus is all Christianity means. Of course, none of this is to say John 3:16 is a bad verse. It wonderfully and succinctly tells of Jesus’s incredible sacrifice. It just isn’t the complete picture, the way we sometimes make it out to be.
What John 3:17 shows, that 3:16 doesn’t, is the communal nature of Christianity. Jesus came to save the world, not just a special group of individuals. And if He came to save everyone, then the Christian faith really can’t be just a relationship between the individual and Jesus. The way we interact with the rest of the world matters. So many of Jesus’ lessons involve love, justice and compassion for one another, that to believe all He cares about is our personal relationships with Him, is a mistake. Our deeds aren’t what saves us, but they do matter. Our relationships with everyone else are an important part of our faith, because Christianity is communal, and it’s for everyone. This is the message that’s lost when we forget about John 3:17.
Holy God, so often we only care that Christ died for us as individuals. We’re so happy that we’re saved that we forget Jesus’s sacrifice was for everyone. Help us remember that we must love everyone, and condemn no one. Help us remember Jesus not just in terms of our personal salvation, but in the way we interact with our neighbors. Amen.
Written by Preston Thiemann
Preston Thiemann and his wife, Rachel, live here in Lincoln. He is the Web Content Coordinator for the ASEM Marketing team at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, where he’s worked since April 2015. At Sheridan, he also plays guitar with the Praise Band and is active in Sheridan’s 20s & 30s group called Second Quarter. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, watching movies and spending time with friends.