Yesterday, one of my pastors was talking about the mission field and sending people out. Up on the screen were a couple of verses. We’re all probably familiar with the first verse:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
What did God do? He loved the world. I’ve discovered that love can be a tricky word in some camps. I always thought of love as deep affection toward someone. It could be emotional love, or love shown by actions, too. We experience emotional love towards someone in boyfriend/girlfriend relationships, marital relationships, when we have a baby, the love we have for a mentor or a dear friend. Of course the highest level of love we’ve received from anyone is the love from Christ, who died for us. That is love in action. These were the thoughts that entered my mind after I read the verse.
I looked up at the screen again, and saw the next verse after John 3:16. Verse 17:
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
I must have read this verse three times. It struck me that we so often stop after verse 16, but don’t continue with verse 17.
God did not send his Son to condemn us.
Wow. Jesus did not condemn even sinners? No, it says God did not send Jesus to condemn the world. The world is full of sinners, so no, Jesus did not condemn sinners. My mind turned away from the preaching an onto the word, condemn.
I picked up my phone and looked up condemn. I knew what it meant, but wanted to see the words the dictionary used – all of them – to define the word:
Immediately after reading through the definition, I recalled how often I’ve been rebuked or reproved publicly (online), but I hadn’t ever thought of it as condemnation. Those two italicized words are synonyms of condemn. Every time I speak out against Patriarchy, every time I give reasons why I’m not settled that only men can teach and preach, every time I say that I do not believe husbands should rule over wives, I am condemned by a certain crowd. I am shown disapproval in public. I am criticized, attacked, denounced, berated, even hammered, and told that they are “concerned” about my salvation, etc.
When sharing things publicly, my words are fodder for debate. I’m okay with that. But a debate is not the same thing as condemnation. What I have experienced from supposed “godly” pastors and church leaders is behavior nothing like Jesus. They want to convince me that I’m wrong and they are right, or that I’m rebellious for thinking such a thing. They are condemning me.
What’s interesting is if you address these people and question the way they are attack you and your beliefs, they quip they are telling you this in love and they are being Biblical. It never feels like love. It’s rude. It seems like a clanging cymbal to me. Love is patient and kind, right?
What did that verse say again? Oh yea, Christ did not condemn. If someone had wrong doctrine, Christ did not condemn. Even if someone was a sinner, He did not condemn. Remember the woman at the well with many husbands and living in sin? He told the truth, but He did not condemn her. He showed her love. Remember the thief on the cross – how did Christ treat him? He did not condemn, but offered salvation. Christ saved the world through redemption, not condemnation.
So, the next time you feel condemned (and I’m speaking to the choir here), whenever someone attacks you and your beliefs, feel confident that condemnation is not of Christ – – because Christ does not condemn . . . the Bible tells us so!