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"Us"

Thursday, December 24, 2015 @ 6:07 PM
"Us" Dr. Ray Rooney, Jr. Digital Media Editor MORE
can we not at least for one single day actually look at everyone in “the world” and know God loves “us” all - Ray Rooney, Jr.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given…(Isaiah 9:6)

What is the most important word in the statement above?  Good arguments could be made for “child,” “born,” “son,” and “given.”  A lot of good theology, soul searching, and preaching is there for the taking if you care to unpack those words in the context of that particular sentence.

I would argue, however, that it is the word “us” that is most important.  Here is why.

“Us” seems to be the most problematic concept in the household of faith.  Clearly, the Jews thought “us” meant only them.  But the “son” in that prophecy from Isaiah stubbornly disagreed.  Often.

Sometimes I wonder if we realize just how explosively radical our “favorite” Bible verse must have first sounded to the man it was spoken to.  Nicodemus was a Pharisee and Pharisees were rather well known to understand “us” to be limited to only those Jews who embraced their interpretation and practice of the Law.  In other words, “us” to a Pharisee would have been restricted to the Jews and then further restricted to only those Jews who embraced their teachings. Remember how they treated the man Jesus healed of blindness and the threat his parents knew implicitly (John chapter 9)?  

 Yet there the “son” of Isaiah 9:6 is saying that “God so loved the world…”  If you think Nicodemus was tripped up by the words “born again” in John 3:3 you have no idea how rattled he must have been by “the world.”  Where did Jesus get off saying that “God so loved the world…”?

Apparently, that was His interpretation of “us” in Isaiah 9:6!  The world.  Not just the Jewish world.  The world.  You mean even the Roman world that was currently oppressing the Jews?  Yes.  The Greek world that worshiped Zeus?  Yes.  The modern day Muslim who doesn’t believe God even had a Son?  Yes.  The atheist who doesn’t even believe in God?  Yes.

We church going Christians don’t fare much better when it comes to “us” either.  We are pretty good at believing that God so loved us that He gave His onlybegotton Son.  But we prove ourselves to be rather Calvanistic when we act as though “us” only means those who believe and accept Jesus (that might be who receives eternal life but those do not fully constitute “the world”).  

Was Pilate in the world?  Then God gave Jesus for him.  Was Christopher Hitchens in the world?  Then God gave Jesus for him.  Was Adolph Hitler in the world?  Then God gave Jesus for him too.  Are Muslim terrorists in the world?  Then, like it or not, God gave Jesus for them too.

Now this doesn’t mean that everyone is going to inherit eternal life.  There’s the matter of believing and receiving Christ as Savior and Lord.  But there can be no denying that God sent Jesus into “the world” to save people many churchgoers don’t think warrant salvation. 

One of the most neglected passages of the Sermon on the Mount is where Jesus says,

For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? (Matthew 5:46)

Think about that astonishing statement for a moment.  Is that meant just for “us” or does it also apply to God?  This isn’t a blog about heaven and/or hell and who shall inhabit both.  Though, for some reason that seems to be all we make Isaiah 9:6 and John 3:16 about.  Does God only love those who love Him?  If that is the case then Jesus was flat out wrong to tell you and me that we should expand our love beyond those who love us.  Even though many will not understand what I am saying it’s Christmas and I am going to say it anyway

I know some will disagree with me but Christmas is not primarily about eternal life or damnation.  The Incarnation of Christ in a Bethlehem cave/stable/barn or whatever else it may have been was/is about one thing… “us.”  The Son was given to “us.”  “Us” was interpreted by Jesus to be “the world.”  Not just the part of it that responds the way God wants and hopes for.  All of it.  “Us” includes the disobedient, disingenuous, and disinterested.  No, no, no!  I am not espousing universalism.  Many are going to wind up in hell. All I am saying is that God loves “us” and has and will continue to prove it.  The gift of Christmas was not something given only to those who ultimately accept it.  It was given to “us.”  “Us” is “the world.”

It’s Christmas.  Even if it we can’t manage it for all the rest of the year’s 364 days can we not at least for one single day actually look at everyone in “the world” and know God loves “us” all and gave His Son because He really does love…even those who don’t love Him?

What a difference it would make if we actually believed that God’s love for those who reject Jesus is absolutely the same as His love for those who repent of their sins, believe in the Son, and call His name for salvation.

Now I know why Jesus followed that statement in the Sermon on the Mount with these words:

You therefore must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48).

 

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given…(Isaiah 9:6)

 

Merry Christmas, world! 

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