For God so loved the world he gave his only begotten son… Like many of us John 3:16 was the first verse that I memorized. In my early days as a Christian it spoke to me of God’s love for me as an individual and gave me an assurance of personal salvation. As my faith grew and expanded however I realized that this interpretation was limited. I started pairing it with 1 John 3:16 Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. Salvation isn’t just about me it is about God’s concern for all the people of our world, I reasoned.
As I read the passage today however, it was the first words For God so loved the world that really caught my attention. Not God so loved me or you or even humankind, but God so loved the world – this beautifully crafted masterpiece created lovingly by God’s own hands for which we were created as caretakers and stewards. And I started to think – maybe we have salvation all wrong. I don’t think that salvation is about individual soul rescue at all. It is more about God’s desire to redeem all creation and bring it back to the wholeness, abundance and harmony of the original creation – the restoration of shalom. Maybe part of our sinfulness is that we no longer take our role as creation stewards seriously – instead of tending and nurturing we consume and destroy.
Maybe God’s plan for our salvation as human beings isn’t so that a few more souls can get out of hell (though that is obviously a great thing). Maybe God saves us so that we can once more become the responsible caretakers and stewards that God intended us to be.
As I watch the devastation caused by Hurricanes Irma and Harvey over the last few weeks and ponder the affects of climate change and our complicity in it I wonder how long it will be before we really take our need for salvation seriously. How long will it be before we recognize the groaning of creation around us as a symptom of our need for transformation into responsible citizens and stewards?
September is, in some churches, known as The Season of Creation. I love these beautiful liturgies and other resources that have been created to help focus our worship and bring us to a recognition of our responsibility.
What is Your Response?
For God so loved the world…. Sit and think about these words. How does the knowledge that God loves this world impact your life and your faith? During this season of creation are there ways that God might ask you to respond.