Many years ago there was a song performed by a man named Meatloaf. The chorus of the song went like this: “I want you, I need you, but there ain’t no way I’m ever going to love you. But don’t be sad, don’t be sad, ‘cause two out of three ain’t bad.”
Now I am sure that Mr. Loaf is a very nice man, however, sadly, those sentiments sum up much of our culture today. I want, I need, but don’t ask for a commitment. How different from our Gospel reading today.
You see, we humans are strange creatures, there is so much we marvel at. Space travel, heart transplants, the Oscars… But often we cease to marvel at, or we take for granted, the most marvelous event in history. It is summed up in the Gospel just proclaimed: God so loved the world that He gave His only son. That whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.
The God who, in His love, gave us a gift: not a lifeless thing, such as silver or gold, but a person. Not an angel, not another patriarch like Abraham or another prophet like Jeremiah. God gave us God’s only son, God gave you and me the Very Son of God.
The gift was a God-man sold for silver by one of his friends, delivered to His enemies by a cowardly Roman governor. The gift was whipped like a dog, and crowned with thorns, nailed to a cross, and left to die between two criminals.
The gift was a Christ raised from the tomb by the power of God. A gift – the whole package – a gift because we have no claim on Christ, and did not deserve Him. A gift because He was born for you and me – lived for you and me – died and rose for you and me as if you and I were the only man and woman in the world. All this because God so loved the world
But, we could say, if God so loved this world, why is there so much pain, sickness and death? A great deal of suffering is attributable to human ignorance, sin and stupidity, but that’s not the whole story. There are sources of human suffering for which we ourselves are not responsible. We do not cause earthquakes or storms or draughts or famines or tornados. While it is true that we produce some of our own problems, not all of them are our own doing. They are simply built into the structure of our world.
Insurance companies call such things “acts of God.” A tornado is called an act of God: a lightning strike is an act of God. I am not prepared to call them that, but neither do I know what to call them – they are certainly not acts of people. Human sin and human error have nothing to do with them. They simply happen, and sometimes they cause incredible suffering. In the face of such realities, can we really believe that God so loved the world?
Do you recall what Jesus said just before His declaration that God so loved the world? He said, “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” He was announcing His own death on a cross, He knew He was going to be crucified. He could see it coming, and even in the face of that horrible prospect, Jesus dared to speak of God’s great love for the world
It is because we are a suffering people that God sent His Son. The passion of Christ did not end on the first Good Friday. His passion surrounds you: in every cancer or AIDS ward, in the racism that lurks just below a civilized surface. Wherever war or violence rule a country.
Christ is the only answer to the problems of the world, but He can’t do it alone. He no longer walks our streets teaching, healing, and blessing, but we do. God needs men and women like yourselves to be other Christs.
As we journey through life, it might be good to ask ourselves from time to time, does His life, His love, ever come through to people because of you? Do people ever see in your face the image of Christ? The Christ who loves us to the end, to the very limit of love? When those around you seek the love and compassion of Christ, can they find it in you? Or do they have to turn away and look for another?
Christ never turns away from us. He always says… I need you, want you, and love you.
Don’t be sad: three out of three ain’t bad.