30: A Hammer For Our Chains (John 3:18-21)
30. A Hammer For Our Chains
Jesus uses strong language in this passage. Judgement and condemnation, evil, love and hate.
“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:18)
Bringing together the names given to Him in John chapter 1, Jesus now calls Himself “Monogenes Huios Theos” the One and Only Son of God. Whoever does not believe in that name is condemned. He has no hope. There is no way of escape. He is permanently and eternally trapped by a judgement that, outside of God, can never be revoked. It is not a life sentence. It is a death sentence. It is an eternal death sentence.
“And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” (John 3:19-21)
Again John had opened a treasure chest for us in the first chapter and now he is unpacking it. He introduced us, like Genesis, to the concept of light and darkness. And now, also like Genesis, he goes on to explain what defines the darkness and why people want to stay in it.
Jesus hasn’t come to condemn the world, but the judgement against the world is clear. People love darkness. This is not some people. It is all people. This is a cosmic problem. And all people love darkness.
This is not that people quite like the grey areas, they like hanging around in the twilight shadows. No, people love darkness. Thick, black, you can’t-see-past-the-end-of-your-nose darkness.
Nor does it mean that people quite enjoy and get the occasional thrill out of a bit of darkness. It means that they love it. The word here is “agapeo”, that self sacrificing, powerful love that defines who God is.
“For God so loved (“agapeo”) the world that He gave His only Son” (John 3:16).
God loves the world with such a powerful, self sacrificing, your-good-at-my-expense love, that He gave us His most precious possession, His One and Only Son. No, not His most precious “possession”, which implies something God pulls out of a cupboard or off a shelf to give us. He gave us of Himself.
The world, however, outside of the grace of God, loves something else. We love darkness. And we love it with that same self sacrificing, “agapeo”, giving love and passion with which God loves us. We don’t just pay lip service to the darkness. We give ourselves away to it. We serve it with all that is precious to us.
And why do we love darkness that much?
According to Jesus, it is because we want to do evil, and we need darkness to do it in. The darkness covers what we are doing. Darkness to hide in. If we come to the light, the evil will be exposed. So we would rather stay in darkness. We not only choose to stay in darkness, we want to do evil and so we love darkness and give ourselves over to it.
When we look at some of the most horrific evils of our era, gunning down young children in school for instance, we understand that the perpetrator needs to feel justified in what they are doing. Most of these acts are not totally random and without some level of severely warped logic. When I was a school Principal I was given training in how to prepare for and deal with such an event. One of the tips was to learn techniques that take away the sense of justification from the perpetrator. If they are so violently offended with the staff and pupils that they believe they are justified in murder, sometimes a “nice to see you again” can be all it takes for the rage to be diffused and the guns to stay hidden and unused on their person. They have chosen to live in the darkness of their judgements in order to rationalize their proposed actions. If someone graciously acts in such a way that it diffuses the strength of their belief in the judgements they have formed (“Maybe these people aren’t so bad after all, maybe they really do care about me”) then it can begin to shed a little light into that darkness and may even break the power of it.
Most of us are not that extreme. But all of us justify our sin, one way or another. That is what it means to live in darkness and it is why, outside of the grace of God, we want to stay there.
Paul Simon begins his song, The Sound of Silence”, with the memorable line: “Hello darkness my old friend.”
Outside of the grace of God, the world believes that darkness is our friend and to live there is to enjoy the best life that we can have.
The Holy Spirit, through John, looks to challenge that belief. He wants us to know that the greatest life we can have is not by living in the darkness but by living in the light. And this light is only found in Jesus, the Logos, the life and the light.
Once we have believed and received The Light of the world, we get switched on. Our lives begin to shine in the darkness with His light. As a result we not only live in the light but can begin, by our new nature, to do the works of light (rather than the works of darkness that we used to delight in). We can do them because we are now “in the light”. We are now positioned
“en Theos”, in God.
We have had to face some strong realities to get there. It is not easy to hear that we have been giving ourselves away to darkness and that nothing we have previously learnt or done has earned us any way out of that life that is not real living. We have had to realise that we need to start again. We have to go back to being a baby with God. Submit ourselves to becoming a child, one of His children. To be born again.
But those choices of God-given humility (because we can surely never get there ourselves) have brought us out of darkness and into His wonderful life.
We are so bound by darkness outside of Christ, that we often need to hear and embrace uncomfortable words to get free.
It takes a strong hammer to break chains.Posted on: June 5, 2018Peter Todd