For God So Loved Not Just You, But the World


For God So Loved Not Just You, But the World | Jim Evans, Love, Priorities, Least of These

If there are things more important to us than what God wants for us and from us, then those things are our true religion, Evans writes.
Here are some of the pitfalls of trying to write timely about religion every week. First, the daily news right now is completely dominated by Republican politics. This will last until midsummer when the Democrats join the fray, and then we will have nonstop partisan politics until November.

I suppose it is possible to ignore the politics of the moment; even as it lays its own unique claim on the faith community.

But to do that leaves us only with Tim Tebow in the news. After this Saturday's game against the Patriots, we will either be through with Tebow-time, or all of us may become believers.

A third option is simply to slide into the comfortable and the comforting. Much of what passes for Christianity these days that has not been thoroughly politicized has been deeply privatized.

How many times have you heard a preacher say, "You can take John 3:16 and substitute the word 'world' with your name – for God so loved you …"?

It's all about Jesus and me.

But of course, that is not what John 3:16 says. It's not just about Jesus and me; it's about Jesus and the world.

And it's about not leaving the world as we found it. Earlier in that same gospel, the writer asserts that Jesus is the light of the world.

He goes on to write that Jesus as light came into a world filled with darkness. The good news is the darkness does not overcome the light.

That powerful sentiment suggests that God is interested in more than just my private spiritual journey. There's a world of needy people out there that has God's attention.

Of course, all this only applies if what God wants is important to us. If there are things more important to us than what God wants for us and from us, then those things are our true religion.

And suddenly we are back to partisan politics and Tebow football.

Just to complicate matters a bit more is a story this past week from Associated Baptist Press. According to recent research, Sunday school is in serious decline in many Christian communities.

An assortment of societal and family pressures are linked to the decline, but the main problem seems to be that learning the Bible is no longer a priority for people of faith.

The expression "biblical illiteracy" has entered our faith lexicon with devastating consequences.

So in addition to trying to find out what Jesus would do, Christians are also faced with the dilemma of not knowing where to go to find out what Jesus would do. What is Jesus' plan for overcoming the darkness in our world?

In 2008, evangelist and religious scholar Tony Campolo offered a provocative suggestion for finding the relevance of the Bible and the faith it illustrates.

Campolo calls on believers to be "red-letter Christians." This phrase refers to biblical publishers presenting the words of Jesus in red type.

What would happen if Christians spent some concentrated time simply concentrating on the red-letter parts of the Bible?

If Jesus is the criterion by which all truth is measured – a claim made by Christians for at least 2,000 years – why not pay attention to what he had to say?

In an earlier book, Campolo also asserted that Jesus was neither a Republican nor a Democrat – a claim hard to argue with these days.

And based on the red-letter parts, I would add that Jesus is probably not much of a football fan either.

So what and who does Jesus care about?

James L. Evans is pastor of Auburn First Baptist Church in Auburn, Ala.

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Tags: Jim Evans, Least of These, Love, Priorities