Tag Archives: Redemption

Jesus Wants Nobodies

Sunday I talked about 1 John 2:15-17 which, in my opinion, is the most important passage in 1 John because it speaks to our humanity and the things that drive us. Here’s the passage:

“Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.”


1. We either love our world or we love God. We cannot love both simultaneously.

2. We know we love our world when we define ourselves by it. When we define ourselves by our careers or relationship statuses or children or parents or significant others or style or music or dialect or nationality or hair color or body shape or athletic ability or alma mater or how we order at Starbucks, we have loved the world and not God.

3. This is dangerous because what will we do when we lose our job or our relationship or our children or our parents or our significant others or our style or our music or our dialect or our nationality or our hair color or our body shape or our athletic ability or our alma mater or how we order at Starbucks? What do we do when those things vanish? What do we do when those things no longer adequately define us as individuals, as humans, as God’s children?

4. When Jesus came to redeem us, it wasn’t just to let us go to heaven, it was to bring heaven here. And in heaven all identity rooted in the world is destroyed. In heaven you are not your career or relationship status or a child or a parent or significant other or a style or music or dialect or nationality or hair color or body shape or athletic ability or alma mater or how you order at Starbucks. 

In heaven, you are exactly who God made you to be. You are you. Just you. Every worldly way we identify ourselves was crucified with Jesus, and a brand new you came out of the tomb. 

5. This is one way to love God and not the world – to lose your identity. And this is what Jesus came to do. Jesus redeemed the woman caught in adultery

Zacchaeus the tax collector

the blind man

the man with leprosy

the woman who couldn’t stop bleeding

the man with a shriveled hand

the paralyzed guy whose friends lowered him from the roof

Their redemption was not just forgiveness, not just healing, but redemption came by Jesus declaring,

“YOU ARE NO LONGER WHAT THE WORLD THINKS OF YOU! YOU ARE NO LONGER THE SLUT, THE GREEDY JERK WHO STOLE EVERYBODY’S MONEY, THE BLIND GUY, THE UNCLEAN MAN, THE UNCLEAN WOMAN, THE GUY WITH THE WEIRD HAND, THE GUY WHO CAN’T WALK. YOU ARE NOW THE YOU THAT GOD MADE YOU TO BE!”

He even did this with people who, as John warned, took pride in their position and possessions. The Pharisees and teachers of the law were robbed of their control when Jesus knocked them off their self-made pedestals and robbed their pretentious identities. Pilate, the governor of the region, one of the most powerful men in Rome, was just a fella. Just a man. And Jesus treated him as such.

6. So who are you? Are you the sum of your external circumstances. Are you trying to prove yourself to the world by being good enough, cool enough, smart enough, parental enough, creative enough, different enough, rebellious enough, angry enough, nice enough, successful enough, rich enough, poor enough, well-dressed enough?

Stop. Let it go. Because if you do those things the love of God isn’t in you. Not because God is mad so he’s giving you the silent treatment. But because you are trying to get everything God offers through things that are not God. And it doesn’t work.

Stop. Let it go. Quit trying to prove yourself to people who don’t really matter anyway. Stop trying to prove that you’re a Somebody. Because Jesus invites us to be Nobodies. And Nobodies are what heaven is all about.

Cup

The FIFA World Cup begins this week. I am not a soccer fan, but I find myself eager to follow the tournament this year because of its host – South Africa.

I recently read a book called “Made for Goodness” by Bishop Desmond Tutu that raised my knowledge of the former apartheid regime in South Africa. Apartheid, for those who are unaware, is essentially legalized racism. For the better part of the twentieth century South African officials forcibly removed all but the white race from society. South African citizens were divided into four groups – white, black, coloured, and non-white. Whites, it was preached, were the supreme race and all others were “dangerous” and not welcome. Blacks were especially targeted as a poisonous race and were driven away from areas deemed white districts. They were forced to live in sad places like Soweto, a slum outside Johannesburg. Because all races and ethnic groups contributed to the daily functions of society, blacks, coloureds, and non-whites were given passbooks – identification papers allowing access to certain areas of town for work purposes. Their presence in areas of town other than those approved in the passbook meant instant arrest, no questions asked. Anyone who openly opposed the apartheid regime was arrested and convicted of “crimes against the state” and sent to the now infamous Robben Island – the Alcatraz-like prison that held Nelson Mandela for decades. Robben Island was an ugly place. Hard labor, racist guards, minimal protection from the elements, and poor nutrition held the island in its clutches. Abuse is too soft a word to describe the conditions on “Devil’s Island” as it became known. The goal was to break the prisoner, to remove all that made them human.

Their humanity was saved through soccer. After five years of petitioning the wardens of Robben Island, they were granted permission to form their own football (soccer) league. It was complete with a commissioner, referees union, protest committee, free agent provisions, recruiting guidelines, practices, and a trophy! A quote from “More Than Just a Game,” a book about soccer on Robben Island: “The prisoners were making sure that they created a system within which the sport would operate that was fair, equitable, and based upon the twin ideals of justice and democracy – in other words, one that was the absolute reverse of apartheid.”

As the book title suggests, this year’s World Cup is more than just a game. It is about justice and goodness overcoming the worst kinds of evil. It is a story about the image of God that resides in all people and evidence that in Christ “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for we are all one.” It is about the God-spark inside every human being that tells us to never stop fighting for what is right. This year’s World Cup is church in a football stadium.

How fitting that the prize is a Cup – the symbol of our redemption in Jesus and of God’s struggle to destroy evil. For three weeks soccer in South Africa will be played not in protest of evil, but in celebration of freedom.

Maybe I’m a soccer fan after all.