Reflections...

Meditations, Reflections, Bible Studies, and Sermons from Kowloon Union Church  

To Love but not to condemn

A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 11 March 2018, the Fourth Sunday in Lent, by the Rev. Phyllis Wong. The scripture readings that day were Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22 ; John 3:14-21.                                               


Opening prayer
Living God, thank you for your Word. May your Word be real to us, your steadfast love and Jesus Christ the incarnated God strengthen our faith. May the Holy Spirit live in us, give us wisdom and freedom. May the word of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you and reveal your glory O Lord. Amen.

The Love of God is for all
The gospel reading of John we heard this morning should be very familiar to many Christians.

The verse 3:16  - “For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish, but may have eternal life.” This verse has been regarded as the Golden Verse of the Bible. It has been widely used by churches in their evangelical activities.

In the Gospel according to John, the author explicitly shared with the readers and the community of faith that God came to the world in human form. Jesus Christ was the incarnated God, the Word made flesh.

Jesus’ salvation is for everyone, not only for a particular race –the Jews nor only for a particular nation – Israel. This message was ground-breaking in the early church era. It is because Jews regarded themselves as the chosen people of God. Jesus broke this tradition and regarded all people could be God’s children through him.

The promise of God revealed in Jesus Christ is great love and very radical because it breaks all barriers and He intended to heal, to forgive and to bring all people to reconnect with God the Holy One.

John 3:16, for God so loved the world. Here the author is referring to the world. There are commentators who say that God’s salvation through Jesus Christ includes not only human beings but also includes the whole creation made by God. So nature and animals are also part of God’s redemption. 

God’s incarnation to the world
For God so loved the world He came to us directly to taste the suffering and pain on earth. He came to live and ended with suffering and death on the cross. Jesus, God in human flesh, has the first-hand experience of humanity.

God entering into the world is a remarkable claim of faith in Christianity. We will never fully understand others’ suffering and pain unless we ourselves experience it directly. Jesus Christ broke the boundary of heaven and earth, spirit and flesh, took the risk to come to the world. We know then how deep is God’s love to us and to the world that He has made. God does not turn his back when he sees the brokenness of the world. Instead He came to partake in it and to restore its wholeness.

To love but not to condemn
The verse 3:16  - “For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish, but may have eternal life” is a statement very powerful to indicate God’s grace to save and to give eternal life. Many evangelists interpret it as only converted Christians will be given eternal life. Those who do not believe in Jesus Christ will perish and be sent to hell after death.

I heard a young person cried when he was extremely disturbed that his mother was not yet a Christian. His mother is a traditional woman believing in popular religion and ancestor worship. This young man is afraid that his mother will go to hell and he will forever separate from her after death if she refuses to become a Christian.

I felt so sad with his sharing. What’s in my mind is this young man and his mother are in hell as he is living a life full of fear and his relationship with his mother is so tense and divisive because of differences in religious belief. I felt sorry for him.

When I got married to Tong 26 years ago, Tong was not yet confessing his faith as a Christian. A sister from my home church called me to rethink my decision to marry a man who is not a Christian. She said he won’t be in heaven after death if he is not a Christian. I was very annoyed with what she said. My response to her was the God that I believed is LOVE.  Jesus came to the world to save. So I trust that God will not send a good and kind person to hell. Besides I said to her the Kingdom of God is not somewhere out there after death, but it lives within our heart. It was what Jesus said. (Luke 17:21) Besides, when Jesus was asked by the Jewish religious lawyers about eternal life, he reiterated that a person can inherit eternal life by following God’s greatest commandment – to love God, to love our neighbor as ourselves. (Luke 10:25-28)

V 3:17 from John says - “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” 

This verse reminds us that Jesus Christ, the Son of God who came to the world, is to love but not to condemn and judge.

The name of God is mercy and steadfast love
Some years ago, two women came to our sanctuary to pray. They claimed they are Christians. They prayed very loudly with spoken words and thus caught my attention. When they saw me, they spoke to me about the issue of homosexuality. They probably know that I am a pastor affirming equal rights and dignity of homosexuals and KUC is an inclusive church which embraces sexual minorities. They are obviously not happy about it. One of them said to me ‘You are pastor, don’t you know that homosexuals will go to hell? You should help them to change.’

Many Christians, even pastors, shared such judgment on homosexuals.  Pope Francis however reacted very differently when he was asked about gays in an interview two years ago in Jan 2016. He said, “If a person is gay and seeks out the Lord and is willing, who am I to judge that person?” He further pointed out that by heart the Catechism of the Catholic Church where it says that these people should be treated with delicacy and not be marginalized.”

He reminded people not to forget that “God loves all his creatures and we are destined to receive his infinite love.” He put it clearly that ‘The name of God is mercy.’

Psalm 107 also reminds us that the name of God is steadfast love. The Lord is the one who heals and saves those who are in trouble.

Pope Francis is a world spiritual leader who demonstrated his compassionate love to the children of God. He reveals the heart of Christ, the incarnated God – that is to love unconditionally.

“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:17) This  verse is a strong statement and message on God’s unconditional love – God came to the world to love but not to condemn.

In reality, many Christians like to condemn others and become God to sit on the judgement seat.

I really like the way Pope Francis suggested treating homosexuals. What he suggested can be applied to others who are regarded as sinners and being marginalized by society and by church. These people could be prisoners, sex workers, refugees, homeless, and people who have contracted HIV/AIDS.

Pope Francis suggested to have these sisters and brothers who have been condemned and judged come to confession, that they stay close to the Lord, pray with them together, advise them to pray, show goodwill, show them the way, and accompany them to walk along it.

Pope Francis has shown to us the way of Christ, the way to Christ, and the way in Christ.

Last week, Dr Hope shared with us in her sermon the Commandment from God is another sign of God’s promise. She concluded that the greatest Commandment is to love God, to love your neighbour and yourself.

This week we received another sign of God’s promise – that is Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh. You can see from the banner at your right. The Cross is the symbol of Christ. He lives deeply inside our heart. Jesus’s compassionate love – his death and resurrection on the Cross – reveals to us and the world God’s deep and steadfast love. Jesus Christ, the light of the world, came to cast away darkness and guide his people to live a life of love and do no evil against others.

We live in a world full of trouble and hardship. The readings of the Psalm and Gospel for this fourth week in the Season of Lent deal with real love and real pain. Exclusion is real. War is real. Cancer is real. Abuse is real. Poverty is real. Threats to rule of law in HK is real. And still, God’s love is real. God’s love is everlasting. No matter how devastating and broken the condition of life, God works for healing, wholeness, and redemption. Jesus Christ came to renew all things and bring freedom. Let us continue to walk our Lenten journey with this promise from God through Christ.

Let us pray:
Thank you God for coming to us and living in this world and within us. Grant us faith to receive your promise of eternal life and steadfast love through Jesus Christ, your only son, the Word made flesh. Teach us Jesus to live a life like you, to love but not to condemn. Amen. 

# posted by Heddy Ha : Sunday, March 11, 2018



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