Not to Condemn the World

The gospel of John speaks eloquently of God’s love for the world and the lengths to which God has gone to restore and redeem his good creation.  “God so loved the world,” Jesus says to Nicodemus, “that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3:16 NRSV).

The liturgy for Good Friday amplifies this dimension of the life and ministry of Jesus.  The Solemn Collects (BCP, 277-280) begin with a reminder that echoes the language of John’s gospel: “Our heavenly Father sent his Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved; that all who believe in him might be delivered from the power of sin and death, and become heirs with him of eternal life.”

Both the Bible and the Prayer Book likewise make the point that those who are in Christ share with him in his redemptive work.  Through the cross of Christ, God has not only reconciled us to himself, he has given us the ministry of reconciliation and entrusted his gospel to us (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).  Similarly, the liturgy for Baptism notes that those who are baptized are “buried with Christ in his death” and thereby joined with him in his “royal priesthood” as ministers of his mercy and grace (BCP, 306-307).

It’s hard to know which is more remarkable, that God’s love for the world is such that he would go to such extraordinary lengths to ensure his will for the creation is fulfilled, or that he would enable us—the very people who crucified him—to be ministers of his gospel of reconciliation and redemption.  

May our lives be a continual thanksgiving for both the tremendous gift of salvation wrought for us through the cross of Christ, and for the unspeakable privilege of being empowered as agents of his ongoing redemptive work.

By the Rev'd Canon Andrew Grosso