God is not the one condemning us; we condemn ourselves. As I said in part one, our M.O. is that God loves, humankind hides. We hide because we’ve painted God’s face with the Serpent’s brush, both theologically and in our own darkened imaginations.
We’ve already seen that Jesus used Moses and the bronze serpent to illustrate why He came. It wasn’t to satisfy some divine need for retribution, but to heal us and bring us to Himself. We discovered that God loves us so much that He wanted to widen the Circle of Love in the Trinity to include us in His life.
We’re now ready to finish this passage (John 3:14-17) by taking a closer look at verses 17-21.
Not to judge, but to save
First, understand that John 3:16, by itself, is not a complete thought. We need verse 17 in order to complete the thought:
16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. (John 3:16-17 NASB)
Not only do we need to understand that God’s motive was love (not retribution) but also that it was to save us. And if we read further, we find it was specifically to save us from ourselves.
19 This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. (John 3:19-20*)
What’s fascinating here is that this condemnation, or judgment, is not coming from God. It’s coming from our own guilty conscience. We fear of exposure. And where have we heard this kind of “guilt trip” before. Of course, from our first parents, Adam and Eve!
8 They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.”(Gen.3:8-10*)
You see, when we focus on the deeds, the sinful behavior, which most believers seem to be obsessed with, whether Catholic or Protestant, we actually miss the whole point. We miss that the “forbidden fruit” is the knowledge of good and evil. And this type of knowing good and evil is the very act of judging.
The Greek word for “judge” in this passage is κρίνω (krinō), which is where we also get the word, “critic.” Krinō means: to separate; to make a distinction between; to estimate…to assume censorial power over, to call to account.
When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, something terrible was introduced into the world. A guilty conscience that causes us to hide from God. And because we felt guilt, we became the judge of ourselves and everyone else.
We became our own standard of right and wrong, which always becomes a hypocritical standard because we will always judge others by our strengths, while ignoring our own weaknesses (Matt.7:1-5).
And when we judge others, we separate ourselves from them. But know that this separation started with our self-condemnation that caused us to separate ourselves from God in our minds first.
As I shared before, this is the sin of the world that Jesus took upon Himself in order to heal us and bring us to Himself.
We were never meant to be judges, either of ourselves or other people. We were meant to love God, love others as ourselves, and become like little children (Matt.18:3). This reciprocating love happens in the intimacy of the relationship. And we can’t bring the tree of good and evil with us there. The only tree in this Divine Dance is the Tree of Life (Rev.22:1-5).
I should point out here that this judging is not the same thing as honestly evaluating what’s going on in our hearts; especially in relationship with God working on our iceberg. Indeed, until we get the “plank” out of our own eye, all our “”fixing” of other people’s issues will only wound them further, driving a bigger wedge between themselves and God.
This is how God so loves
Let’s wrap this up. John 3:14-21 tells us that God so loved every human being that He sent His Son to heal us from the Serpent’s bite, which is a knowledge of good and evil. This “snakebite,” or sin, brought judgment into the world, which separated us in our own minds from the life of God (self-condemnation) and from each other (judgmentalism).
All sinful behavior comes from this deadly poison. Jesus came to be our anti-venom, to save us from ourselves and bring us into the Divine Dance of love in the Trinity, so that we would be compelled by self-giving, other-centered love instead of self-interest and fear of judgment.
When we stop hiding from God and, instead, allow Him to deal with the deepest and darkest part of us, all the toxins of the forbidden fruit of the knowledge of good and evil will be drawn out of us. The more we allow this healing process, allowing ourselves to be fully exposed to Love, the less we will be critical of others. The more we will have grace for ourselves and each other, the more we will look like Jesus to the world around us (John 13:35). This is how Jesus frees us from the “sin of the world.” This is how all the law and the prophets are fulfilled in us (Matt.22:37-40).