The great task of the American people is to continuously and faithfully explore and apply the first sentence in our Declaration of Independence, We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. Written by wealthy, white American men, many who themselves were slave-owners, the irony and challenges of such a claim have never been lost or forgotten. Its actual application in American life remains a persistent challenge. But the sentence remains our creed, and it remains unfulfilled, in that while we think of everyone being equal, we have failed miserably to treat everyone as equal.
In the same way, the church of Jesus Christ has always striven and struggled to embrace its own definition and application of the words, For God so loved the world. . . We have striven to divide that “world” between those whom we say God “knew,” and therefore loved, and those who God did not know/elect, and therefore did not love, or at least did not love in the same way as those He had chosen. Many Americans have tried the use of laws, rules, red-lining, segregated school and water fountains (to name a few of the devices) to maintain some distinctions and barriers between those who we see as “us,” and those who we wish to keep “not us.” So too, God’s people have struggled to keep their front doors open to the “others,” the not-one-of-us people out there who wish to come in. The writings of the Old Testament prophets—accepted by Jew and Christian alike as inspired, authoritative, and perfectly reflective of the will and nature of God the Father—are used by God to keep that door open, and they were used by Him to keep the door open to the countless streams of those wildly diverse, geographically scattered people, the Gentiles, who desired to come into the saving warmth and peace of God’s family—the Church. In those writings, by those Jewish men so long ago, God has left a candle in the window for all to see and escape the darkness. But God’s method was of a more memorable and poignant nature. It was the brutal, violent, public placarding of His own Son, Jesus, on a rough-hewn, blood-soaked Roman cross of execution, lifted on a hill, for all the world to see. And all the world sees it today, each time the gospel is read and told, and each time a Christian dares to love the world in the same way her Master Jesus loved it, by giving her life for it.