Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 5; 145, Judges 12:1-7, Acts 5:12-26, John 3:1-21
John 3:16 is possibly the most commercially successful verse in the Bible. It’s so marketable that the reference alone is enough to sell millions of keychains, bumper stickers, t-shirts, coffee mugs, eyeglass cases, pocket protectors, and just about anything else that can sport an imprint. It is the unofficial logo of Brand Jesus.
There’s no shame in its popularity – it’s a beautiful verse summing up the message of the gospel:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”
But could it be the tiniest bit too popular for its own good? Without delving into the whole discussion about faith versus works, is it possible we can be so happy all we have to do is “believe” that we never get around to living out a life transformed by that belief? After all, belief is a solitary and internal occurrence. Belief alone neither feeds the poor nor clothes the naked, or accomplishes any of the things Jesus says we do for him when we do them for the least of our sisters and brothers.
The verses following John 3:16 expand on its statement, and describe how those who believe embrace the light, and those who don’t believe stay in the darkness because it hides their deeds. No matter how strongly we “believe in him” (and what exactly that means is a discussion unto itself), it’s a good idea to regularly check in with ourselves to ask whether we would be comfortable with Christ’s light shining on our lives at this moment. Our actions confess the convictions of our hearts more clearly than any public statement of belief ever will. We can cover our lives in bumper stickers from the local branch of 3:16 24:7 but Jesus knows a whitewashed tomb when he sees one.
Belief is the beginning of a life in faith, not its end. If how we conduct our lives does not stand up to the light, our belief has died on our lips instead of living in our hearts.
Comfort: There’s no need to hide who you are – God loves you warts and all.
Challenge: Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said: “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.” Shine light on the parts you feel you need to clean up by sharing them with someone you trust.
Prayer: Lord of Light, make your face to shine upon me. Amen.
Discussion: Where do you draw the line between privacy and secrecy?
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