I don't know how it started (I forgot who started the ball rolling), but the theme running through yesterday's Sunday morning service was Love. There were many love-inspired hymns, songs and Scripture readings (worship time overran by almost half an hour!). If I'm not mistaken, all the songs we sang had the L word appearing at least once.
The spark of the occasion was none other than the upcoming V-day (Like, duh?!). Of course, being in church, in a Sunday service, the thoughts of love were centred on God, and His love, since we're such *ahem* spiritual people. Haha. But some people (brave souls) managed to squeeze in some sharing about romantik love... meaningful stuff... thanks for sharing :)
But the two main things which struck me were these:
We read John 3:16-18. Go ahead and read it again. Most times, we just read John 3:16, almost like a mantra. But as every good Bible interpreter would tell you, you must read the verse in context. Not just in isolation. So, it was good to read the two verses following the sixteenth verse of John chapter 3.
16For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.
Note my emphasis in bold. Keyword is "already". It means humanity was already condemned even before Jesus came into this world. We were already dead in sin. There was (and is) no one righteous. Every human is born with a congenital defect. We're terminally ill. Our default mode is condemnation.
So, it suddenly hit me that this one word "already" is the response to those who question God's fairness in "condemning people". No, according to the Bible, all of humanity from Adam and Eve stands already condemned in the sight of God. We're on the downward spiral, by our own doing. We're not neutral. We're black as black can be. Our sins are red as scarlet, but God wants to wash us white as snow. It is God who is doing us an infinite favour by saving us through the redeeming work of Jesus on the cross. It is because humanity was already condemned that God sent Jesus Christ to save us, because He loves us. Believe God's Word. Believe in Jesus. Thank God for His grace and mercy.
When we sang the song "Such Love" written by Graham Kendrick, the background picture on the projection screen was a scene of Calvary with three crosses silhouetted against the sun. Yes, three crosses. Not one. Somehow that struck me afresh, although I thought I already knew the crucifixion story pretty well... Jesus did not die "alone". Yes, he was forsaken by his Father, but he was executed with two criminals, one on his left and one on his right. And those two criminals had totally opposite responses to Jesus. One mocked Jesus, one believed Jesus.
The word that came to me was, which criminal am I?