Psalm 24, 29 (Morning)
Psalm 8, 84 (Evening)
John 3:16 is one of the most fundamental statements of Christianity, but the few verses that come after that are very confusing. (Also, I’m going to confess something; I’m writing this with a terrible cold and a 102 degree fever, so it’s even MORE confusing for me today.)
Our tendency, I think, is to default to over-thinking that bit in verse 18, about believing “in the name of the only Son of God.” When I was young, my older male cousins at times used to have too much sport wrestling and pinning me to the ground, not letting me up until I said something like the word “uncle” or “you’re the boss.” Indeed, whole denominations of Christianity use just that as the litmus test for salvation.
I don’t think it’s that simple, and I don’t think God’s that capricious.
Truth is, I think it’s less about the individual and more about the collective–the world.
Here’s an uncomfortable truth–I think even the most devout of us have moments and sometimes even long periods of disbelief. Frankly, I’m the absolute worst about that when I’m sick with a virus. I am a really pathetic sick person when I have a virus. I suppose I think working in health care should make me immune to such things and I have a big ego about that. So when I do get sick, I just lie there in my weird feverish dreams and awful thoughts–and one of them is frequently, “You know, maybe we just die and that’s it…and right now if I died I don’t care except I don’t want the dogs to be trapped in here and eat my dead body when they get hungry. THAT would be really disgusting. All the things I’ve done in my life and THAT is what people will remember about me–this pathetic person who lived alone and was half eaten by her own dogs when she died.”
Ok, ok, so this is a rather extreme scenario and very unlikely, but you see what I’m illustrating here. Some people can’t believe when too much has happened to them in too short of a time. Some people can’t believe because, frankly, they’ve been traumatized by Christianity. Some people can’t believe explicitly in Christianity, because it’s not the culture in which they grew up.
Yet I think all the time we see those exact same people doing things as individuals that collectively move us closer to the light of God…and I think that is more what those verses that follow are about. On our own, none of us are worthy, and God sent Jesus so we could be closer to God despite our unworthiness. In the end, I think it’s our actions that reflect “the name of Jesus.” We judge ourselves; God tossed out God’s judgment when Jesus became incarnate.
Perhaps it’s best summed up in Mark 9:24, when the father of the child with seizures says, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.”
When have you reflected the light of the name of Jesus even at a time you were paralyzed with unbelief? What is the role of our faith community in this paradox?
Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid