And if anyone hears my words and does not observe them, I do not condemn him, for I did not come to condemn the world but to save the world. Whoever rejects me and does not accept my words has something to judge him: the word that I spoke, it will condemn him on the last day.” (Jn. 12:47-48)
When I was a child, our class memorized the verse, “I did not come to condemn the world but to save the world.” This was our reminder that Jesus was our Savior who came, not as a warrior of justice but as a merciful king who would lay down His life for our sake so that we might be saved. It was accurate theology, but it was not complete theology. Yes, Jesus is merciful, but Jesus also speaks by the authority of “the Father who . . . commanded me what to say and speak.” (Jn. 12:49) And this Authority also said, “the word that I spoke, it will condemn him on the last day.” (Jn. 12:48)
So, what do we take from this? Do we live in fear of hell? Do we live however we want and cling to mercy? The answer lies in love. If we love Jesus, we do not have to fear hell. We have to fear and despise the sin that keeps us separated from His tender, merciful gaze. We must run to repentance, because it is not God who sends us away but our own sins and transgressions. The truth of sin is that is separates us from God. The truth of love is that it will forever call us back to Him. It is with this understanding that we form a relationship with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. And it is with this understanding that we go out into the world and spread the word of God.