The Greek philosopher Plato (c. 427–c. 348 bc) found an imaginative way of shining light on the dark side of the human heart. He told the story of a shepherd who innocently discovered a golden ring that had been hidden deep in the earth. One day a great earthquake opened up an ancient mountainside tomb and revealed the ring to the shepherd. By accident he also discovered that the ring had the magical ability to enable the wearer to become invisible at will. Thinking about invisibility, Plato raised this question: If people didn’t have to worry about being caught and punished, would they resist doing wrong?
In John’s gospel we find Jesus taking this idea in a different direction. There, Jesus, known as the Good Shepherd, speaks of hearts that stay in the cover of darkness to hide what they are doing (John 3:19–20). He isn’t calling attention to our desire for cover-up to condemn us, but to offer us salvation through Him (v. 17). As the Shepherd of our hearts, He brings the worst of our human nature to light to show us how much God loves us (v. 16).
God in His mercy calls us out of our darkness and invites us to follow Him in the light.
Dear heavenly Father, thank You for the light of Your presence in my life. May I walk obediently in the light of Your truth in all that I do this day.
Sin’s darkness retreats when Christ’s light is revealed.
Often we think of judgment and eternal life as primarily future realities, but John’s gospel emphasizes that each person experiences either judgment or eternal life now, based on how we respond to Jesus. People experience judgment, are “judged already” (v. 18), when they reject Jesus—through the pain and emptiness of life outside of the fellowship of God. This judgment is not because God is eager to judge. If He was, He would not have sent Jesus (v. 17). Jesus was a pure gift from the heart of a God who loves His creation (v. 16). Those who reject Jesus condemn themselves by rejecting the only solution to the evil and brokenness in the world (v. 18), choosing darkness when God has made His light freely available in Jesus (vv. 19–20). But when anyone turns to Jesus, they experience life—overwhelming, overflowing, abundant life (see 4:14, 10:10).
Questions to consider: Why do we sometimes struggle to believe that God is more eager to show us love than judgment? How can we be more rooted in Christ’s love?