Save the World, Lose the Sin…

Ben Schoettel   -  


John 3:16 is the most well-known verse in the entire Bible. The core belief of our Christian faith is centered on its truth. Jesus came so that we could put our faith in Him and have eternal life. Our faith leads to our place in the “new creation” that is referenced in scripture and in Sunday’s message.

The very next verse should be just as memorable, and when we look closely, might even feel controversial. “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him” (3:17) Verse 16 introduces the idea of “perishing”, and without verse 17, we may falsely tie our “perishing” to the motives of God. Verse 17 clears that up by saying that Jesus did not come to condemn the world. Other examples are spread throughout John’s gospel.

Jesus’ response to the “adulterous woman” in John 8 is a great example. There was the perfect moment for Jesus to condemn or enforce “judgement” onto someone who sinned against God. The Pharisees even read the rule book to Him. Everyone knew exactly how she was supposed to pay for her sins. And yet, Jesus reveals the truth of the matter, and in doing so reveals His purposes. After asking that the one without sin be the one to dole out the punishment (knowing that was only Him) Jesus says this to the guilty woman; “Has no one condemned you? Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.” Grace without punishment. Justice without condemnation. A revelation that God’s will is to free us of sin, not destroy us as punishment for it.

Then, we have the blind man in John 9. The immediate response to this man’s condition was that it must be due to either his sins or the sins of his family. Jesus does not place blame for his conditions on anyone’s sin. Instead, He heals the man and makes him an example of how God’s glory is revealed not in punishment and brokenness, but in restoration and righteousness (justice).

One of the seven broken signposts in N.T Wright’s book Broken Signposts is justice, and rightly so. Our broken ways of understanding and abusing our ideas of “justice” has caused us to forget that justice is a manifestation of God’s love. The revelation of God’s justice is not about destroying what is already broken but is putting everything right again through Jesus. As it has already been mentioned in this series, Jesus is the fullness of God’s light and love in the world.

The restorative works of Jesus reveal how the powers of evil and injustice are being destroyed. The will of God is to destroy the anti-creation, anti-Christ powers that rule the world today. Therefore, Paul writes in Ephesians about the truth that Jesus already has Lordship over us. Our battle is not against each other (flesh and blood) but is a battle between Jesus and His church against the powers of sin and death. We are living in a world of darkness, but the light of Jesus is continually driving it away for good. So, we shouldn’t be adding shame or blame when darkness and brokenness still exists, we should hold onto the hope that through Jesus we will overcome.

As N.T Wright notes in his book, “One of the most redemptive messages of Christianity is that Jesus himself suffered these kinds of injustice too.” What does this mean? That if our sinless Savior suffered injustice, that means the suffering and injustice that continues today is not punishment for our sins but reveal that all things are not yet redeemed.

Admittedly, I know first-hand the pain that this misconception brings. I still carry scars from believing that the pains of this life were due to me not being faithful enough. I blamed myself for deaths in the family, hardships, relational strains, anything bad that happened must have been God trying to “set me straight” or punishing me for what I do wrong. That’s our broken view of justice. That’s the “condemnation” that we falsely put on Jesus’ resume. But again, Jesus Himself says it, “I have not come to condemn the world”.

The resurrection of Jesus is the victory over darkness on our behalf. Victory over injustice that now frees us to be active participants of the new creation. Through our faith in Jesus, we are empowered by the Spirit to live in this new creation. The new creation is justice itself. Restorative, healing, and life-giving justice.