The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. John. (3:13-17)
One of the ideas that has guided modern anti-religious thinking is the idea that God has multiple personalities. That God is sometimes love and sometimes wrath. This has caused an unhealthy fear of God and has often caused people to dismiss the “Christian” God as being petty or childish or unstable. For instance some teach that if someone accepts Jesus Christ, then God loves him. But if he rejects Christ, then God hates him and moves to punish and destroy him. This has led to unbalanced views of heaven and hell and the afterlife, but most importantly it has caused people to be unsure of their relationship with God or to reflect hostility towards God since they believe that God is already hostile towards them. If we believe in this type of God, we are left confused or angered by the unpredictable personality of God. It then becomes no wonder that people have fled from the Christian faith and that the typical modern western man or woman no longer considers Christian faith as an integral part of our society and culture. These are the ways in which our theology or dogma have a deep effect on our worldview and thinking from the top down. What you believe about God affects your whole world.
In today’s gospel reading which is given to us on this, the Sunday before the Feast of the elevation of the Cross, we are reminded of the reality of this God whom we serve. John writes “For God sent His Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” So John tells us that the Lord Jesus Christ did not become a man who dwelt among us and lived our life and experienced our pain and suffering because He hated us or wanted bad things for the human race. In fact it is the opposite, He came to us and was present with us because of His deep love for us. We see this again in the life of the Lord Jesus as He does not impose His beliefs on others or cause them physical pain or use force in order to coerce them into faith and belief, no! Instead we see that He teaches out and works openly and invites people to come to Him.
It is not that God forces us at all. Out of His love for us, He opens to us the opportunity to choose Him and to choose His way over the ways of the world (which are the ways of death and corruption). Yet, even in the life of the Lord Jesus we see that people would not always accept Him or His teaching. Sometimes they would reject him and then we saw the one thing that was unimaginable. People turned on God and attacked His Son. Humanity repaid God’s love by betraying Him. Far be it from God to condemn the world, in fact it was the world who condemned His Son. How much love does God have for us, that He would allow such a terrible and hateful thing to occur? We have no way to quantify such a deep love.
St. John writing in his first epistle says this about the subject “God is love.” He is telling us something about God’s character, God’s personality and even God’s essence. In a manner of speaking, love is in the very fibers of God’s being. There is no place for anything other than love within Him! When we say that God is love, we are saying that His love is perfect, eternal and unconditional. God will always love you. There is nothing that you can do that will change this pillar of our universe. God IS love.
We see this love come to complete fruition when we see the Son of God hanging upon the cross. In effect, this is the way in which God says to the world “Now you see just how much I have loved the world.” St. Paul writing in today’s epistle had this to say “But far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is our glory because it fundamentally changes the way that we understand the world, theCreator of the world and our place in the world.
Everything is seen differently when we begin to understand God’s love. We even understand our lives differently through the lens of the cross of Jesus Christ. We understand through seeing the cross, but even more, through living the cross. It is one thing to see Christ from the outside, it is another thing to put on Christ and carry the cross.We begin to see that life is not about comfort but about struggle. We begin to see that doing the right things does not always mean that you are rewarded with comfort and happiness. Often it means thatyou will have to really suffer. That is part of what it is to be a Christian who lives according to the law of love. To loveis often to be used, humiliated, disgraced, hurt or even killed. Many of you have experienced such pains and trials.Why do you think that we remember the Martyrs so often? Because they have demonstrated to us what it means to put on the Lord Jesus and take up His cross with love. But my brothers and sisters, if we recognize that men and women like us have been able to embody and demonstrate such love, we can never forget that God’s love far exceeds any concept of love that we might understand. His love for us is perfect.
This love brings us to life and gives our life new meaning. Even difficult things and painful circumstances become beautiful when they flow from our love for God and when we attempt to live His love for others. So this is exactly what we try to do on a daily basis. We don’t simply go around in a careful way, trying to avoid all kinds of pain and struggle. That is no kind of life. We embrace holy struggles. We struggle to be loving to others even when they treat us poorly. We struggle not to condemn others, even when we see them sinning. We struggle to be faithful and dilligent to our work and our families and our husbands and wives. We struggle not to get swept away with the currents of the world. We struggle to be honest even when we see our classmates and co-workers being dishonest. We struggle to live holy lives.
We carry our crosses with the understanding that each one of us can multiply the love of Christ in the world. We carry them bravely, knowing that God is able to raise us up because He alone has conquered death! We carry the crosses that He allows in our lives, no matter how difficult they might beand He promises that we will share in Hisresurrection. All of this is given to us by grace because He first loved us and gave up His life for us, to Christ our God is due all glory, together with His Father and the Holy Spirit. AMEN.