For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”
Sometime during college I realized that devotion to (and arguments about) Jesus often distract us from the more primary point of John 3.16: God loves the world. My prayers for the world changed, as did my love for the world.
How do you pray for the world? What is your role in sharing God’s love with the world?
Years later I learned that the Hebrew word for mercy, rachamin, is built on the root rechem, womb. What is a womb if not a world, a most intimate, life-giving world that gives to a new life from its own life?! As one whose womb has both nurtured life and lost it prematurely, I know the attachment of mercy in my own flesh. Not every woman is called to biological motherhood, and yet mothering is a gift of love to the world. Indeed, every calling from God is a calling to offer love to the world in a particular way. My prayers for the world changed again, as did my love for the world.
How does your particular position in the world—your POWER • PRIVILEGE • PRESENCE—shape the love you offer to the world?
My journey of accepting the particularity of my gifts—down to the offering of my own specific heart, soul, mind, and strength—has not always been easy.
Today, International Women’s Day, highlights some of my particularity in ways I do not always appreciate. What does it mean to be both woman and Christian? Who am I at the intersection of Christian and woman? In my faith foundations and developmental seasons I’m aware of many moments: unexamined gender neutrality, male preference/privilege/dominance, gender stereotyping, tokenizing or collecting, and downright misogyny. Often voices from the outside observing my struggles in any of these moments have labeled me a fool for continuing to seek Jesus to guide me in loving the world.
How does following Jesus affect your:
POWER, perhaps empowering you to resist oppression, extend compassion, or call out injustice?
PRIVILEGE, perhaps offering access to offer or remind others to offer active love to neighbors?
PRESENCE, challenging you to receive all of your particularity as a gift and offer it in love?
Saying yes to the kind of foolishness revealed in God’s love for the world through Jesus continues to require spiritual practices and disciplines. I’m grateful for God’s love for the world, which means that we are never alone. The world is the place to receive and to practice love and to grow in understanding all the many shapes and styles God’s love takes.
God, thank you for your continual yes-saying power to the world you love. Your yesses in the face of our habitual nos mean that the world continues—broken, yet loved. Convince us of your love for us through the witness of Jesus and lead us, like him, into sharing your love with the world. Amen.
- Rev. Dr. Colleen Windham-Hughes
Associate Professor, Religion Department / Wilbert & Darlene Carlson Endowed Chair in Youth & Family Ministry
Associate Dean for Interdisciplinary Programs and Community Outreach