“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perishbut might have eternal life.” – John 3:16
This is undoubtedly the most well-known and often quoted verses in the Bible. It manages to pop up on signs everywhere from sporting events to protest marches. For far too many it is about as deep as their religious convictions get. I believe in Jesus so therefore I am saved and am going to heaven. I certainly do not need a church, its Sacraments, or to do anything further than simply say, “I believe in Jesus and accept him as my Lord and Savior.”
Is this really the point God meant to get across to us or have we lost something in translation? Most people read the Bible in their native language using a modern understanding of word meanings. They have no desire to ever dig deeper. This is unfortunate because they will never experience the true flavor and complexity that is in Holy Scripture.
If all you have ever tasted was a hot-house tomato bought from a mega-mart in January you would never know what true tomato flavor really is. Once you sink your teeth into a ripe, home-grown, heirloom tomato during the height of growing season you will never desire the bland things you buy from the store ever again. The same holds true for Holy Scripture. Once you get some understanding of the rich and complex meaning of scripture as it was written in the original language you will find a new appreciation and love for the words.
So how does this apply to the most quoted verse in the Bible?
A good modern day definition of “believe” is:
“to have confidence in the truth, the existence, or the reliability of something, although without absolute proof that one is right in doing so.”
If this is all the scripture meant to convey then Satan would be more saved than any of us for he not only has confidence that Jesus is God’s only begotten son but he knows it to be fact. Satan believes in Jesus for he knows him personally. Unfortunately many of us have confidence in the truth that Jesus is God’s only begotten son and because we have this confidence we believe we have been saved.
The word used for believe in the original Greek holds a much deeper and exact meaning. In this verse believe becomes synonymous with the word “faith” which is always synonymous with the word “trust”.
“God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, so that everyone who trusts in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”
What separates trust from simple belief? Your actions. There is no action required when you simply believe. When you simply believe you have confidence in the truth. Trust requires proof. What is proof that you trust? You do what is asked of you by the person you trust.
If a stranger walked up to you right now with a glass containing an unknown liquid and told you that you had been poisoned, drink the liquid if you want to live, you would not drink the liquid until you had a chance to verify the claim. You have no trust in the stranger. If someone you trusted did the same thing you would drink the liquid without needing verification of the truth.
“…everyone who trusts Jesus, and does what he commands, might not perish but might have eternal life.”
As a Catholic I believe that all official Church teachings were given to her by Jesus himself. To trust in Jesus is to trust in his Church. If I trust in Jesus I cannot pick and choose which teachings of his Church I believe and follow. If I trust in Jesus and wish to do as he commands I must do my best to follow every teaching of his Church. If I have to follow the teachings of his Church it cannot simply be me and Jesus.
Satan believes in Jesus for he knows for a fact that Jesus exists. Satan does not trust Jesus for he refuses to listen to his commands. The first step to eternal life in heaven with God is trusting in and listening to Jesus through his Church here on earth.
Off to make a BL – heirloom Tomato sandwich.