John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." If all Christians believe that, why is there so many arguments among Christians? So much finger pointing? So much judgment toward fellow believers? Before I dive in, watch the video below in under 7 minutes and see how something so simple can have such an impact. Grant it, most people reading this do not have this level of reach, but so what? What if we could all just reach those around us in a similar way?
Sadly, Christian unity is often not that simple. We should all be praying for unity among Christians because we are all on the same team, serving the same Jesus ( see "SON" below ) and going to the same heaven if we endure to the end as scripture says.
I am 100% for all Christians promoting John 3:16. Get the bumper sticker, wear the t-shirt and share John 3:16 anywhere and everywhere. However, as soon as you look at just two words deeper there will be disconnect among professing Christians which can make it hard to witness to those who don't know Jesus when they see Christians not in unity. But unity is going to take prayer among Christians, patience and a moving of God because humans let humanity get in the way.
Let's look at "SON" and "BELIEVES" and see how two words can create disconnect:
How "SON" ( Jesus ) is defined outside the verse is an important first look into unity among Christians: Jesus was not just a prophet. Jesus was not "a" god ( little g - one of many ). Jesus was not created. So knowing who the "SON" ( Jesus ) is makes a huge difference.
Knowing that the "SON" ( Jesus meaning Savior and Christ meaning Anointed ) is truly God and is the second person of the Trinity ( Father, Son, Holy Spirit ) who was born of a virgin, became man but was also divine, shed his blood on the cross for our sins, rose on the third day, ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father are all critical points of the Christian faith.
Most Protestants and Catholics agree on who the "SON" is. However, there is still a lot of disconnect between both sides on several other things. In addition, I would assume that some Protestants must not realize Catholics actually know who the "SON" is since some Protestants think Catholics are not Christians.
Typically, mainstream Christianity does not view Mormon's and Jehovah's Witness as truly Christian because of how both groups define the "SON" ( Jesus ). That's why it's crucial to dig deeper when talking with anyone who says Jesus this and Jesus that but really defines Jesus completely different than who Jesus really is. Jesus was not just a great prophet that lived a good life. Jesus is divine, is the Savior of the world through the cross and is God.
It's definitely far easier for Protestants and Catholics to agree on the "SON" in unity than it is on the word "BELIEVES" in John 3:16. Believe is a verb. That means it's an action word.
I think it's very clear in the New Testament that believe is not meant to be as loosely used as some people in modern times think it is. It seems pretty simple "whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." But do you really, truly, deep down inside think that all you have to do is "BELIEVE" and that believing requires no action? If you just "BELIEVE" you will spend eternity in heaven? Remember, believe is a verb.
Context of the whole New Testament and not just one verse is crucial to the Christian faith. If it's truly so simple as "BELIEVE," we'd only need John 3:16 and nothing else in the Bible. Hmmm.... that's an interesting way to think of those who push "BELIEVE."
In John 14:15, Jesus said "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." Jesus also said "do unto others," "love your neighbor" and "feed my sheep." In Matthew 16:24, Jesus said "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." I don't think "take up his cross and follow me" is defined as being out on the golf course all weekend saying "I believe" so I'm all set to do whatever I want whenever I want because it's about me and not about Jesus.
Even at the most basic level of those who say they are "SAVED" likely say that salvation includes "accepting" the free gift of salvation from God by "believing" on Jesus and "confessing" sins. Please pay close attention and note that accepting, believing and confessing all require action. So even at the most basic level, salvation requires action. However, I don't want to put my eternal hope in just the most basic level. I want my BELIEVING to translate into doing. I want to LIVE OUT MY FAITH.
No, we shouldn't complicate things. But we also shouldn't water down the Gospel so much so that it becomes cheap grace. Whether it's John 3:16 or other verses of the Bible, it's not all going to be holding hands singing Kumbaya anytime soon. However, Christians need to pray for unity.
Will you join me in prayer?
A prayer for unity...
we praise you for sending your Son
to be one of us and to save us.
Look upon your people with mercy,
for we are divided in so many ways,
and give us the Spirit of Jesus to make us one in love.
We ask this gift, loving Father,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.