The Apostles must have preached a short and long version of the Gospel. They needed both because too often they were getting arrested and thrown in prison for The Lord. So what must have been the short version of the Gospel? It is the one that is so familiar to all of us:
“God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”
This verse has traveled around the world and has been seen and read by millions throughout the centuries. But I think its greatest impact has been through football games, golf tournaments, tennis matches and baseball games. As a child I was curious to find out what John 3:16 meant. I first saw it on TV during a football game. Later that day I went, found a bible, and read it for myself. No one else had ever motivated me to do so. I cannot recall a single time looking up a verse in the Bible for CCD or Faith Formation class. Whoever this individual was, who held the poster while the Dophins kicked an extra point, well, he gave witness to his love for Jesus and it worked. After all, I had done what they had hoped I would do. I had been evangelized by them.
How simple our Christian message is. How beautiful and timely it is. A few weeks ago a young woman I know was visited by the Jehovah Witnesses. She was having a horrible day. She wrote to me afterwards and said, “Today, God revealed himself in a different way Father! The door bell rang this morning. It was a Jehovah Witness. He read to me from his Bible, he read Corinthians Chapter 13: ‘If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels but do not have love, I have become a sounding [peace of] brass or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophesying and am acquainted with all the sacred secrets and all knowledge, and if I have all the faith so as to transplant mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.’ I would never change my faith for anything Father, but as he read that, I started crying non-stop!”
Even with their extremely poor, misguided and manipulated translation, faith and thought process, this "witness" did not lose the essential gist of God’s word. It had not been the first time my friend had heard this verse in her life, but as she stated in the very beginning of our conversation, “the door bell rang” and she opened it. The Holy Spirit does work in mysterious ways. We have plenty of proof of that throughout history.
In both cases I see something very similiar. The power of God's word and the surprise of having heard it (or seen it) in the most inconvienient or unconventional way. Well, the Lord is The Way, and his way is surprising. What a disservice we have done to the world by keeping our religion to ourselves; by believing the secular lie that religion is a private matter - something better left in the home and never preached on the street. What a Big Lie it is to believe that religion should never be discussed with a friend. I disagree. They must be discussed, but always with love and compassion. If that is not possible, then work on it! Solve the problem and preach the Gospel. We are all waiting to hear it spoken and lived through you.
The Sadducess, temple guards and chief priests were at a loss. They were at a loss for they had lost the Good News - the greatest message ever from the greatest Child of Israel. Their world was falling apart and still they could never come to connect their loss with Christ’s death.
We know better. The loss of Christ during Holy Friday is a powerful reminder of who and what I risk losing, and how I need to double my efforts to never allow the Lord’s death to occur in my life, by my decisions and due to my lifestyle.
One sure way of doing this is to be the first to share the news with those who have been away for far too long, whether it is convenient or inconvenient. This is how we know that God so loved the world, by sharing his life with us.