John 3:16

Today’s blog explores John 3:16, the scripture passage oft-quoted at sporting events and the focus of yesterday’s Gospel.  Is there a way to view this reading that eliminates the walls of separation and exclusion? 

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.

John 3: 16

The Trouble With 3:16

At first glance, this reading may seem harmless enough, but if we take the reading at face value, and listen to the typical interpretation of this reading (and its surrounding text), it kind of says, If you don’t proclaim Jesus Christ to be your personal Lord and Savior, you will perish and spend an eternity in hell.  I never really believed in this kind of exclusive arrangement anyway – that there is only room in eternity for Christians….specifically those in “good standing,” but after 20+ years of contemplation of scripture and study of not only Catholic theology, but of the teachings and practices of our Jewish, Moslim, Pagan, Hindu, Buddhist, Native American and Yogic brothers and sisters, I really have a problem believing that there is only room in “heaven” for those who proclaim Jesus Christ to be their personal Lord and Savior.    (For you Catholics out there, it might interest you to know that the Vatican II Documents support the possibility of heaven for everyone. So apparently this concept of exclusivity was problematic to the Vatican II Fathers as well.  YAY Vatican II!)  So in the past several years when John 3:16 would show up in the cycle of readings, I would either cringe or just close my ears and write it off as irrelevant.  That was until I discovered the work of Neil Douglas-Klotz.

Enlightment Through Translations

Among other things, Neil Douglas-Klotz is an author – specifically on the topic of bridging the gaps between Christianity, Islam and Judaism.  His work centers on a prayerful and more accurate translation of ancient texts which helps us to better understand the teacher/author’s intentions.  Two of his works especially have had a HUGE impact on my own spiritual journey and my relationship to Christian scripture:  Prayers of the Cosmos and The Hidden GospelThanks to these works, I have a broader and deeper perspective on The Lord’s Prayer, The Beatitudes and many of Jesus’ reported sayings and teachings.  I am grateful for the way in which Douglas-Klotz’s work has eliminated the separation and tension that I have often felt in the traditional viewings of scripture.  So, without further ado…..I offer to you today a different perspective on John 3:16 that arose out of my prayer and was supported by Douglas-Klotz’s work.  I hope that if you too have struggled with the separation often caused by the traditional interpretation of this reading that this new perspective will give you room to breathe.

John 3:16 – a New Perspective

 For God so loved the world that God planted within all of humanity a spark of Divine truth and the restlessness that compels them to seek this truth.

And God so loved the world that God made it such that all of humanity would have the ability to rediscover, cultivate and fully embrace this truth and come to the realization of their wholeness and their Oneness with God.

And God so loved the world that God called all of humanity Sons and Daughters of God and knew that some would discover this spark of truth before others. Those that discover and embody this truth would find relief from the suffering of the human condition; suffering that is the natural consequence of forgetting this truth.  Those that discover and embody this truth are called prophets and come from all walks of life, all cultures, races, genders, ethnicities, religious beliefs and sexual orientations.  Those who through this truth come to self-realization and self-actualization are then compelled to share this truth with others so that they too may be saved.

God so loved the world that God gave humanity the gift of free will so that they could decide if and when they are ready to discover and embrace this truth.  Those who are not yet ready to embrace this truth are no less saved than the rest, they are merely unripe.  For those who are not yet ready to embrace this truth, God lovingly and patiently awaits their ripening.  For those that believe in this truth in the same way that the prophets believe in this truth, experience heaven on earth – a life of abundant joy, peace, compassion and bliss.

God so loved the world that God gave humanity each other that they might remember this truth……and this truth is LOVE.

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

http://yourspiritualtruth.com

Remember the Love That You Are!

About Your Spiritual Truth

I am a trained, professional Spiritual Director, Author and Hands-on Healer. I offer services, programs and classes that empower you to hear the voice of the Divine that speaks from within you. It is the voice of the Divine that leads us to our highest truth, to the discovery and cultivation of our gifts and to a life of Authentic Freedom where we know contentment, compassion and joy. Your truth will set you free!
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7 Responses to John 3:16

  1. Bob says:

    Hi Lauri,

    Thanks for posting this. I too have struggled with the above passage you mentioned. But, from the eyes of a contemplative there can be on other option than inclusiveness. The God or Source or Spirit of Creation is implanted within all life just waiting to be realized. It’s quite the game of hide and seek!

    Blessings,

    Bob

  2. Robert says:

    I don’t get not liking John 3:16, even should I find elements of wisdom in non-Christian religions, and hope for the salvation of those outside the fold, as it were.
    I sense a kind of religious humanism, a do-it-yourself cosmology, behind this post, that may be well-intentioned, but takes all the hope and joy and reason to believe out of Christianity, for me-I speak only for myself.
    Karl Rahner, a peritus at Vatican II, had much to say about the role of the Spirit in non-Christian religions. I find, nowhere in the documents any sign that a kind of religious humanism as replaced the Gospel.
    Speaking for myself, I know Jesus will judge rightly at the end of time, and the standard by which we will be judged is love, not our religion. Christianity is meant to be a religion of love.
    This can be lost or distorted by bad experiences with church, onvkiously. I just want to say, even if I sound impolitic, that any discussion of love that leaves out Christ is lacking.

    • Robert, don’t get me wrong….Jesus is totally my “personal Lord and Savior,” he is the teacher I turn to, the guru that leads me and the center of my prayer and devotion and for me, there is no discussion about Divine Love that is not centered in Christ. Your words bring to mind a discussion we had in a theology class about “High Christology” and “Low Christology.” The idea of “High Christology” left me with an understanding of “Christ” that transcends religious affiliation. From that perspective “Christ” is the way and the truth and the life – for EVERYONE. Now that is a Christ I can get my head AND heart around!

  3. Robert says:

    Well put, succinct, and on the mark. Yes, yes, yes. .

  4. Ed Burley says:

    Contextually, I believe John 3:16 makes perfect sense. In Jesus’ day, religion defined humanity – good and evil. The religion that Jesus confronted was Second Temple Judaism. The Sanhedrin were the wealthy, the “well,” the superiors; and the rest of society were either spiritual outcasts or striving to attain to the religion of the Sanhedrin – works-oriented religion.

    Jesus’ words were simple. Jesus was bringing a kingdom of mercy – after all, who did he hang out with? Sinners, prostitutes, the despised, the rejected, thieves, murderers, etc. He offered them the hope of abundant life. To the religious, those who did not believe in his new kingdom, they would experience the loss of their religious identity – within that generation. The Temple would be destroyed, anything that promoted exclusivity, pride, and self-exaltation over others was about to “perish,” i.e., experience the “second death.” In 70CE, the religion of the pharisees and sadduccees would be destroyed once and for all. No longer would the people of God be judged and found deficient – for Jesus had made peace between the Divine and Humanity, literally “a marriage made in heaven.”

    Those first century Jews who were “enemies of the gospel” were actually “beloved for the sake of the patriarchs.” Even though their religious “soul” was about to be lost, their works of “wood, hay and straw” be burned up, they themselves would be “saved.” With the covenant people saved “yet as through fire” the whole world was thus reconciled to the Divine through/in Jesus. ALL who had died in Adam were made alive in Christ. ALL are alive.

    If you’d like to know more on this perspective, please visit my friend’s website http://pantelism.com. Thanks for the opportunity to read your stuff, and to share my own perspective. It’s just my view, no arguments from me…just my attempt to reconcile the biblical text with my inclusive beliefs.

    • Ed,
      thank you so much for putting John 3:16 in the proper context! It sure helps us to gain even further understanding of what the author of John was trying to communicate to his world. And anything we can do to work toward reconciling biblical texts with inclusive belief is alright by me!

  5. Ed Burley says:

    thank you for your kind reply. I hope I didn’t come off arrogantly. I realize that there is much that I could be wrong about. The only thing that I would absolutely die for is God’s mercy to ALL. John 3:17 says “for God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved by him.” Most evangelicals ignore that verse…To me, God’s judgment on Jerusalem meant “life for the world.”

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