Sunday

11 March 2018

John 3:14-21

“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (v. 17)

Psalm: Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22


Background

On the radio a scientist was talking about modelling the universe. He spoke of two models that were needed to help us understand how everything works. But there was a problem. If one model worked it excluded the other and vice versa. Trying to work out how God loves us seems to present us with the same sort of problem: one of logic, language and understanding. Theology is full of contradictions. In today’s passage, the Gospel writer uses language which has become commonplace in the Church. The Father so loves the world that he gives his Son. But a foundation of faith is that God became human in the person of Jesus. So surely it is God who dies on the cross! You see what I mean? As Charles Wesley put it, “our God contracted to a span, incomprehensibly made man”. And the idea of God sacrificing his son doesn’t simply contradict the language of incarnation, it can be anathema to many and an obstruction to faith.

This is the sort of problem that scientists and theologians argue about amongst themselves. While the best scientists alter their theories over time, the Church tends to turn contradictions into creeds and if not fighting over them struggles with belief. So what is the bottom line?

I think it goes like this: God loves all of us more deeply than we can understand or express. God does not seek to condemn us but to love us. Yet we all want to ask ‘how’ of everything. Why not just trust it is so? It is interesting that the word we translate as ‘believe’ here, also means ‘trust’! Let’s just leave the ‘how’ as an unfathomable mystery. If the cosmos is hard to believe and full of contradictions how much more is God likely to be?

God loves us: enough!


To Ponder

  • How do you picture God?
  • How do you cope with contradictions in the Bible?

Bible notes author

The Revd Andrew Pratt

Andrew is a Methodist supernumerary presbyter, Honorary Research Fellow at Luther King House, Manchester, and author. He has written over 1,300 hymns.