the truth that saves us all
For God so loved the world. Maybe the most well-known words from the sacred book I've been reading all my life.
For God so loved the world.
Six simple, monosyllabic words -- but words that matter more than anything else that can be said about God. To borrow from the poet Christian Wyman, in this grain of grammar, in this unsophisticated phrase, is a world of hope.
For God so loved the world is a phrase first spoken by Jesus to Nicodemus on a rooftop at night -- where Nic had snuck away because he was afraid his esteemed colleagues would see through his credentials and degrees and scrolls and robes and blustering, and discover who he really was: a doubter who was desperate to believe.
Nic dared to believe that there was more to God's story than rules.
Nic dared to believe that the one-dimensional, angry, grudge-keeping figure he'd been taught all his life could possibly be a three-dimensional loving, forgiving, gracious Parent.
Nic dared to believe that there was more to this world, more to this life, than what he could see with his eyes.
Nic dared to believe that Jesus held the key to divine truth that Nic had spent his life searching for.
And when he finally got up enough courage, when he sacrificed sleep for a midnight meeting, when he couldn't go on without getting answers to his heart's questions, when his longing overcame his pride, he met Jesus.
Of ALL THE THINGS Jesus could say about God -- who God is, what God's like, what God asks of his followers -- of ALL THE THINGS, Jesus says these words, "For God so loved the world..."
If I was Nic and I had spent my life afraid that if I didn't keep the rules, I would be condemned, sentenced, smited by fire and brimstone....and I heard that God loved me and the world in which I lived, I would have fallen to my knees and cried with joy.
This morning, I woke up thinking about the God who so loves me. Who so loves you. Who so loves the world.
And then I read the headlines.
Fifteen-year-old Jordan Edwards was killed when police fired a rifle into a car in which he was the passenger. The car was driving away from the police, not toward them, and they fired a rifle into the car and shot Jordan in the head.
A U.S. soldier died in Mosul.
People are dying in Liberia, and Syria, and Somalia and Togo and Afghanistan and countless other places.
North Korea is unstable.
Our country's own leader is unstable, for that matter.
Every day, I wake up to see the tragedy and pain and injustice...and every day, my heart breaks all over again.
This morning as I sat in front of my laptop, poised to write, tears blurring the blank screen in front of me -- because really, what is there to say? -- the only words that came to me were, "For God so loved the world."
And I realized that for God, loving the world is not a constant dopamine-fueled, joy-filled experience.
For God, loving the world was -- and continues to be -- an excruciating, maddening, heartbreaking, frustrating journey.
No wonder God never slumbers nor sleeps.
Given all the pain in the world, who could?
Today, in the light of the pain I feel and see, I feel like Nicodemus. Going to Jesus for answers. For help. For clarity. For affirmation that the world I can see with my eyes is not all the world there is.
Today my longing overcomes my pride and drives me to the feet of God to beg him to tell me what's true.
And I hear the 2,000-year-old words echoing, "For God so loved the world."
And I see an invitation to follow in the steps of Jesus -- steps that led him to the top of Calvary to lay down his life and die because he loved us so much -- he loved us enough to get to us.
God the Parent and God the Son remind us that loving the world is sometimes a painful and costly and arduous endeavor.
But that's what makes it love.
On the days that are difficult and dark, when we're sleep-deprived and restless, when we're all out of tries, when we can't remember what it feels like not to ache, we find Jesus patiently waiting to meet us, gently reminding us that the most important thing to know about God is that GOD. SO. LOVES.
God so loves you.
God so loves me.
God so loves is in our present situations and struggles.
As each of us goes into this day, this week, this month, this year, this life -- we remember to follow in the steps of Jesus, to pour love into each and every crack, to persist in hope rather than succumbing to despair.
And as we experience and express Divine Love, we breathe in and breathe out the truth that saves us all.
God so loves you.
God so loves me.
And God so loves our world.