“Whoever believes in him will not be condemned”

You keep saying you believe, but it may not mean what you think it means. Here is what John 3:16-18 has to say.

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.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through him.
Whoever believes in him will not be condemned,
but whoever does not believe has already been condemned,
because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

It is a beautiful gift, God giving His only Son to save the world. And all the world has to do is believe in Him. Sounds simple enough. There are those in the world who believe that’s all that’s required, that you simply believe — end of story, you’re saved. And there are plenty of stories in the Gospels in which someone believed and his faith has cured him or her. Or is that what really happened?

A woman followed Jesus in a crowd and touched His garment. Her faith saved her and she was cured. But it wasn’t just her belief. She worked at it. She followed Him. She reached out. She dared to actually touch His garment.

A blind man heard Jesus approach and cried out for His help. The crowd told Him to be quiet but he persisted, crying out again. And again. And Jesus came over to him and cured him for his faith. He came to Jesus, he persisted, he called out.

Our belief requires anact of faith. Some say acts aren’t enough. But the Gospels show mere belief isn’t enough, either. So what is belief?

For the good Samaritan, belief was stopping and helping the battered man along the side of the road. For the prodigal son, it was giving up the wanton life and returning to his father; for his father, it was forgiving his son who was lost; for his brother, it was softening his heart for his disloyal brother who now has returned to the family. These, of course, are parables, but they are examples that Jesus gave us of people living in faith.

Belief is not just acknowledging Jesus’ existence and His divinity, but acting on his teachings and commandments. It is feeding the hungry, giving shelter to the homeless, providing for the poor, visiting the prisoner, giving succor to the widow and the orphan, making up with your neighbor or brother who has wronged you, making peace with your enemy, and above all loving God with all of your heart, mind, and soul, and loving your neighbor as yourself. And it is taking in God’s love and sharing it with others. Belief isn’t a spectator sport, as they saying goes; belief is a full-contact sport.

We live in troubled times and in troubling times. There seems to be far too little acting on belief and far too much “I believe now let me get on with my life.” There is no get out of jail for free card. God did not send Jesus to condemn the world but to save it. Saving it requires the world take part in its belief. You say you believe; act like it.

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