There’s a good chance that you know John 3:16 by heart. I want you to bring to mind the first six words:
“For God so loved the world…”
Imagine a globe, and all the different countries represented on it. Some of them you know and think about often. Others you learned back in 7th grade geography but have since forgotten. Every one of them represents a group of people that God loves.
Today our congregation celebrated Native American Awareness Sunday; we were blessed to have some members of the nearby Snowbird community join us for worship. Among these friends was a lovely woman named Lou, who shared her passion for missions in Honduras. Honduras is a country I don’t often think about, but Lou thinks about it often. Lou takes it to heart that Jesus’ last instructions in Matthew were, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations” (28:19). So she is going – as we all should, whether it’s to go across the world or across the street.
Because “God so loved the world…”
Later in the service two other Snowbird friends, Maybell and Alfred, sang two hymns in Cherokee. I didn’t understand the words but I could feel their meaning. Although we have different cultural backgrounds, it’s wonderful to affirm through music our strong connection in Christ. As Paul put it, “in Christ we who are many form one body” (Romans 12:5).
“For God so loved the world,” and in Christ our different worlds are made one.
The last song Maybell and Alfred shared with us was about the Trail of Tears. 16,542 Cherokee were forced to move from North Carolina to Oklahoma in 1838; at least 2,000 and as many as 6,000 died en route. As they sang I could feel their emotion – the hurt and suffering of their people.
When I was first exposed to the idea of “corporate sin” – sins that we commit together as a community – I found it difficult to accept. How could I share guilt for things that I wasn’t personally involved in? Tink Tinker, one of my professors in seminary and a Native American, helped me to gradually come to terms with our corporate sins. No, I didn’t have anything to do with the Trail of Tears. But yes, I am a part of and a product of the country responsible for those events. In Christ, we know that we have forgiveness for even sins as great as these – which allows us to remember them and repent of them so that we do not repeat them.
“For God so loved the world” – God loves us all and makes forgiveness available to us all through Christ.
May God work in your heart and mine to grow our love for all the people of the world. May we love each other as God loves us.