“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” –John 3:16
This passage of sacred Scripture is perhaps the most widely known in the entire Bible. As Christians, we recognize this as the central doctrine of our faith in Jesus Christ. However, few of us ever stop and consider the true meaning and gravity behind this popular billboard expression. As this Lenten season reminds us through the readings for today, God sent his Son to save the world and remake it anew.
As God’s chosen people, we know that the world we live in is broken. A culture of death pervades our societies and constantly reminds us of our mortal separation from the holiness of God. However, just as God sent Cyrus to rebuild Zion, so did he send Christ to rebuild and redeem the world. Why he would do so remains a mystery, but it is clear that we have been saved by his eternal and omnipotent love. The problem, however, is that humanity as a whole doesn’t recognize its need for redemption.
Before we came to Christ, or more accurately, before Christ chose us to come to him, we did not need anyone except for ourselves. We believed that we had the power and the righteousness to work our way into Heaven. However, as Paul’s letter to the Ephesians points out, that is exactly the wrong way to find salvation. The grace of God, through Christ’s death on the Cross, is nothing but a gift. We do not deserve it, but it has nevertheless been given to us through unfathomable love. We must simply accept it. In doing so, we experience Christ’s love and are moved by the Spirit to reciprocate that love by acting in such a way as to bring glory to God. Thus, though it is not by good works that we are saved, it is by being saved that we do truly good works.
During Lent, we remember how God made the ultimate sacrifice in order to save the world. So, too, do we try to emulate his actions by sacrificing something of great value to ourselves. However, this goes beyond simply refraining from an indulgence or luxury. Rather, by focusing on Christ’s sacrifice, the Light of Christ reminds us that we are broken and points out areas in our lives that are in need of renewal. Therefore, I challenge us all this season to reflect on our brokenness, and the gift of God’s love in our lives. What sin in our life is separating us from experiencing the fullness of his death and resurrection? Offer that up to God and pray that he reveals to us the incomparable riches of his mercy and grace.