In John Chapter 3, the Gospel tells us some interesting things.
Here, Jesus is speaking with Nicodemus, a Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin who has become a believer: “We know you are a teacher come from God, for no man can perform signs and wonders such as you perform unless God is with him.” But he has lots of questions, and it is here that Jesus teaches about how to enter heaven:
“No one can see the reign of God unless he is begotten from above”; “No one can enter into God’s kingdom without being begotten of water and spirit”; “No one has gone up to heaven except the One who came down from there — the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” (This is the shortened version; read the whole chapter for the full scripture.)
Then Jesus says something really interesting. “God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.”
So what are we to make of all this? As Christians — Catholics and Protestants — we believe that we can only get to heaven if we believe in Jesus. In fact, as the chapter continues Jesus says, “Whoever believes in him avoids condemnation, but whoever does not believe is already condemned for not believing in the name of God’s only Son.” The Church puts a lot of emphasis on this. And so do its members.
What I hear less emphasis on by many believers are Jesus’ other words; “God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world .” When you read the Gospels you don’t see Jesus condemning sinners. You don’t read him chiding wrongdoers. He heals those of faith, and encourages repenters. The only ones you hear Jesus using cross words with are the scribes and Pharisees who are hypocrites and the money changers who profane God’s temple.
Jesus came to save sinners and build faith. Yet many members of His church spend an inordinate amount of time condemning people they consider sinners. If God will not condemn sinners, why should we? Counsel perhaps. Build up their faith certainly. But how is it our business to condemn others when Jesus, who died on the cross for them, won’t?
In Matthew 7: 1-2 we read Jesus command, “If you want to avoid judgment, stop passing judgment.” Can you really be a Christian if you do not heed this command?