4 Lent – Year B

Numbers 21:4-9; Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22; Ephesians 2:1-10; John 3:14-21

“We must be willing to get rid of the life we planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” – Joseph Campbell

                Jesus is quoted as saying “those who do not believe are condemned already.”  (John 3:18) This line has been used to banish to hell all non-Christians.  What an embarrassing warping of the bible.  First of all, “belief,” as used in the bible, is not talking about intellectual agreement.  (see Greek below) Otherwise, babies and senile people could not be saved.  It is talking about alignment with God on a deeper level than what goes on in our misguided brains.  Also, Jesus is speaking about “eternal life” (John 3:15), not the afterlife. (See Greek below)  Eternal life is multidimensional.  It exist is all directions, not just in the future after we die.  It is also now, and even into our past, redeeming our whole life.  When by our actions we do what is true, we are living in the light (John 3:21).  This is eternal life now.  But who hasn’t been selfish, petty or even hurtful.  When we are that way we have slipped out of the light into darkness.  Then we are condemned as Jesus said.  We are not condemned by God.  We condemn ourselves by our actions. We have all been condemned many times.  It seems that many of our life plans have not been all that wise.  But eternal life waits for us in the light, the light of love, joy, peace and patience.  John 3:17 says, “God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world.”  This whole Gospel passage is about God gently nudging us back into the light.


                In John 3:18, and elsewhere, the Greek word is unfortunately translated “believe.”  It is an undesirable translation because “belief” in modern usage carries the luggage of cognitive acceptance, intellectual reception in our minds, as if Jesus is telling us to just accept what he is saying.  However, the Greek word which is sometimes translated “have faith” means to be in God-initiated relationship in our spirit, even if our minds are not aware of it.  To be in spiritual reciprocal kinship is different than simply “believing” God exists or even that Jesus is God.  It is shown, however, by our actions, not what we think about God.  This is not about creedal statements. 

                John 3:15 speaks of eternal life.  The Greek word for “eternal” has the root meaning of “ages.”  It means without beginning or end.  Therefore, it does not refer to the mere future afterlife.  It has little to do with past, present or future.  It just “is” always.


Ourselves condemning

again yet again, lit yet

bright eternal life.