4th Sunday Lent (b) 2018
When I read this gospel yesterday I was struck by a particular word; that word was ‘lost’; ‘God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life’. I don’t really know why it stood out for me, but scripture is like that. You can be very familiar with a passage but one day something new is revealed. So the word ‘lost’ was one I had seen hundreds possibly thousands of times before but yesterday it seemed to jump out at me. I thought it an odd use of a word in the context of the sentence: ‘so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life’. I would have thought the more obvious word would have been ‘saved’.
But it started me thinking about lost and being lost. It’s not nice to be lost, to lose your way. And yet there are many people who are lost today. Not necessarily in the sense that they have lost their bearings, but in a moral sense. It is one of the saddest facts of modern life that there are so many suicides. Among a certain age group of young people, it is the most common form of death. That is tragic. And its not just in England. I remember being with my uncle in Ireland, walking through a cemetery when my relatives are buried, and he pointed out to me a number of graves of young people who had taken their lives. I had thought it would only happen in towns and big lonely cities, but no.
Someone who commits suicide must have been really lost; their worlds must have become so dark. But this is what can happen when people lose their moral compass, when they abandon the teachings of Christ. And I was like this once. In my late teens and early twenties I left the Church. It wasn’t really a conscious decision more a sliding away from all that I’d done before. This was the 1960’s, the age of the Beatles and the Stones, it was the beginning of pop music and of rebellion; young people no longer did as they were told, as their parents, and their parents had. And so I lost my moral bearings. Without the teaching of Christ I became unhappy. I became something that I had not been. My life became dark. Not that people would have noticed, we are all actors and keep the bright side out; we do not want others to see the dark inside. How often have I heard people say of someone who has taken their own life: we never suspected s/he would do this, they seemed happy enough.
I was blessed to rediscover my faith by the age of twenty four. But sometime later I spoke with an old friend I had known in my bad old days. I had not seen him for a number of years. He was surprised to hear from me, as he said that he had heard the rumour that I had committed suicide. I felt a cold shiver run down my spine. If I had continued on the way I was going who knows that could have happened to me.
Without God, without the teachings of Christ it is easy to get lost in our world. And not just young people. Christ gives us a moral compass to follow; it may not always be telling us the direction we want to go in, but it is a sure guide. This is because all God wants is our happiness, and if we obey His Word then we will discover that happiness.
God loves us so much He sacrificed His own Son to prove His love for us; to stop us getting lost. Someone who loves that much does not want anyone to get lost. The gospel of Christ is the unique guide to our happiness and salvation .