John 3:14-21 | 4th Sunday of Lent, Year B
Jesus as Teacher, Not Task-Master
I think we often forget that God really does meet us where we are. He knows what we need, and He knows what our friends and family members need as well. It’s when we try to take matters into our own hands—when we try to push someone who’s not ready to be pushed or maybe even doesn’t need pushing despite what we may think—that we get into trouble. When we do try to play God, we may inadvertently appear that to be condemning the other person for what they are doing or for where they are in their life, faith or other.
It’s not our job to condemn others; it wasn’t even Jesus’s job to condemn us. John 3:17 states, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through him.” Actually, it was never in God’s plan for Jesus to condemn us. So any condemnation that happens is purely human, not from Him. Jesus came to meet us where we are so He can carry us forward. People aren’t motivated by fear or by being taught to loathe themselves or others. Used as a motivator, fear or loathing will backfire. God is Love; Jesus is God; Love does not engender either fear (1John 4:18) or loathing.
When we condemn, we lose sight of the fact that each of us is made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). No matter who we are or what we have done, something about all of us reflects the Father. Condemning another ignores that glimmer. Jesus came to nurture, not ignore, and certainly not to extinguish God’s presence. That doesn’t mean He doesn’t push us on occasion if the situation warrants. But when He does, it’s from love and a position that no human has—perfect knowledge (Psalm 139:4).
Our lives are a series of lessons God designed to teach us to become the people He intended us to be. When we mess up, and we will, He doesn’t want us to fear our mistakes. Not owning a mistake only hurts us—on the inside. That doesn’t mean there won’t be consequences—there always are. But a God-ordained consequence helps us to grow and move forward. Failure is often the best teacher, but only if we look the failure straight in the eye.
If we blame others, avoid our mistakes, or just as bad, stew in guilt, we can’t move forward. Guilt does not serve God, and our lives are meant to serve the Father just as He serves us unendingly.
Jesus came not to condemn our mistakes but to give us the tools to own them and learn from them. God sent Jesus to save the world by teaching us. We are instrumental in His plan, and He wouldn’t endow a people He wanted to condemn with such potential. We should be as gracious to the people in our lives. If we look closely enough, their God-given potential is right there for us to see.