This past week, I wrote a blog about why I believe Jesus would have spoken against all the religious and nonreligious people today who fear and condemn transgender people for not fitting the norm. You can scroll back and read it for yourself.
In other places in the New Testament, Jesus spoke against the Pharisees of his day for loving the law of Moses more than they were loving people who had leprosy, or who were lame, or blind, or mentally ill, or who had birth defects, or any other condition that made them less than perfect by the standards of those who believed themselves to be favored by God.
Yet I’m not writing today to change your mind about any one particular injustice in our society today. I’m here to remind you of the universal and spiritual law that is repeated many times in the New Testament: you will reap what you sow. If you sow judgment on any group of people, you will be judged by others. If you sow love, you will reap love. That’s your choice and I’ll let you make it for yourself.
Instead, I want to turn the conversation to what Jesus said in the verses prior to the gospel reading for Sunday. Context is everything. So this is the context: Jesus said this to his disciples:
“I have spoken these things so that you will not be made to stumble. 2 They will put you out of the synagogues. Yes, the time is coming when someone who kills you will think that he’s doing God a service. 3 And they will do these things to you because they (the ones who know the Scriptures backwards and forwards) do not know the Father nor me. 4 But I have told you these things so that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them. I did not tell you these things in the beginning because I was with you. 5 “But now I go away to the One who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 And because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, a Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send him to you. 8 And when he has come, he will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 of sin, because they do not place their confidence in me; 10 of righteousness because I go to my Father and you see me no more; 11 of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. 12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 However, when he, the Spirit of truth, has come, he will guide you into all truth…” (John 16:1-13).
The Helper, according to most scholars, is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will guide you in the truth. So how is the Holy Spirit going to do that?
I’m going to be the first in line to tell you that the Bible we have received is the most incredible witness to the wisdom of the centuries. It’s a precious book of knowledge and has led many people to love God. But I worship God, not a Book. And I’ve found that truth doesn’t always lie on paper in the black and red ink. The truth is often a hidden treasure, hidden between the letters and the lines on the paper. Martin Luther said it’s in the white spaces where the Holy Spirit teaches. And I agree.
Yet the Holy Spirit doesn’t need a book to teach you the truth. Millions of people on our planet over two thousand years and even today were not able to read the Book because they don’t know how to read. Still, the Holy Spirit spoke to them and taught them to love God and their neighbors. Millions of Christians today never read the Book because they don’t have any time. Still, the Holy Spirit speaks to them and teaches them to love a God who cares for them and to love their neighbors. So the Holy Spirit, the Helper, doesn’t necessarily need a book to guide you in the truth.
In the passage quoted, one of the things Jesus said was this, The Helper will convict the world of sin. The Greek word for sin, harmartia, literally means “to miss the mark.” The Holy Spirit tells me that the mark we are to hit is love. Sin isn’t as much about following rules in a book of wisdom assembled in the fourth century as it is about missing the mark of love.
The Bible tells us that God is Love. If you believe this like I do, that means love (God) trumps rules. Jesus himself set aside the rules in the Book when love was more helpful in caring for his neighbors. He contradicted long-followed rules in the Scriptures that he didn’t agree with. And it’s the Holy Spirit that Jesus said he would send to be your guide who will teach you this. So I’m here to remind you today, that the Holy Spirit dwells in your heart. Not in your logical brain that sees ink on paper. He dwells in hearts that have been softened by love.
I’m here to tell you to listen to the Holy Spirit who lives in your heart and not to every Bible-thumping Christian who insists that the wisdom of God is found in the black and red ink of your Bibles. It’s found in the white spaces and in the depths of your heart – where the Holy Spirit dwells and speaks to you. Let the Holy Spirit guide you to believe those who promote Love.
May this Holy Spirit guide you toward hitting the mark of love in all the choices you must make in the world today. And may you sow love rather than judgment, and you will harvest much love in return.