Today’s Gospel reading is probably one of the most recognizable of Scripture quotes: “For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him shall have eternal life.” Sports fans everywhere have seen the signs in the stadiums, even on national tv, but does anyone pay attention?
When I heard the words this morning, I paused after “For God so loved the world…” It’s a lot to ponder: “the world” is too much to wrap a mind around. “The world” includes the little tomato plants that are in shock after being transplanted to the garden last Sunday, the baby horses running after their mamas in the field at the end of our driveway, the sun and wind that quickly dried the sheets and towels I put on the clothesline. All created beings and all created things are “the world” that God so loved.
Watching the evening news the words came back to me again. A single report on the war in Libya made me wonder about the world God so loved. A frantic doctor in an incredibly overcrowded ICU in Misrata, raised his arms in despair as he showed the reporter all the critically ill patients awaiting transfer to a ship that couldn’t enter the harbor because of mortar shelling. A thousand immigrant workers, many sick and injured, waited to board the same ship but were pushed aside by Libyan citizens, desperate women and children, who crushed to get aboard when at last the vessel reached the docks. The misery of these children of God should break our hearts. It surely breaks God’s heart because it is certain that Christ is still suffering in each one, still hungry, still thirsty, still sick, still a stranger…
God so loved the world…He sent his only Son…who so loved us…he sent us into the world. “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you…and I commissioned you to go out and bear fruit that will last.” (John 15)
How do we do it? Only by the power of God’s love at work in us, allowing our hearts to be broken by what we see and hear and touch- but are unable to fix. Only by the power of God’s love at work in us, impelling us to do whatever we are given to do each day with genuine kindness and patience, refusing the quick criticism or cynical remark. And above all, refusing to yield to “compassion fatigue”. For God’s love-which is in us- never tires. We must commit ourselves to keep our eyes open to see the world God so loved.