In the same way Moses raised the snake as a banner before the people in the desert, the authentic human must be a banner of real life for everyone to rally around. God loved the world so much that God gave God’s only child to make a way for anyone to follow out of certain death into real life. Certainly, God intended this child to be the world’s rescue, not it’s doom. Those who embrace him are not doomed. But those who don’t embrace him, because they refuse to embrace the way of life, are doomed, by definition.
The verdict is that the spotlight is on. People hide in darkness when they’ve done something wrong. Those who do wrong hate to be exposed and will do anything to avoid being exposed by the spotlight. But if you’ve done right, you’ll want to be in the spotlight so everyone can see the awesome things you’ve done.
Too often, the famous John 3:16 is lifted up (in the end zones at football games, for example) as if it were the magical snake in the wilderness, as if reciting this magical formula would change anyone’s mind.
What the gospel has in mind, though, is that people live authentically human lives as a banner for new life to gather around, and the gospel points to the life of Jesus as being the touchstone of that authentic humanity. It takes more than reciting a theological proposition – even a scriptural one – to lift that banner. It takes embracing a life-giving way of life. It means turning and walking away from life-diminishing activity to life-affirming activity. It means living honestly enough that you have nothing to hide.
The spotlight is on. Forget about “Are you saved?” the more important (and useful) questions are: Are you really who you say you are? Are you really who you appear to be? Are you the same person when (you think) no one is looking? And when you are who you really are, are you authentically human, or are you trying to be something else?