“When we act in the world, we cannot control the consequences of our actions. People respond to our actions in ways that we can neither predict nor control. So, Bonhoeffer asks, do we remain in a position of purity, above the fray, where we can bask in our own virtuousness? Or do we enter the fray, knowing that it is likely to get us dirty? We cannot remain absolutely pure” (from her “Afterward” in Evangelicals in the Public Square by J. Budziszewski).
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
The famous verse comes to us as a part of the conversation between Nicodemus, the timid, questioning Pharisee, and Jesus, the one who had turned water into wine and who had just announced the destruction of the temple and that he'd rebuild it in three days. This was no small conversation. As church readers, we should identify with Nicodemus. We need to confess that we don’t know what’s going on with this Jesus. Sure, he is a great teacher, obviously sent from God. But its not fame Jesus is after. It is something far more radical: We must be born again or we can’t see God’s kingdom. It gets worse: This born again thing is not so easily contained, it is like the wind, which we cannot control and goes where it wishes (3:8). The windy, unpredictable Spirit just shows up where and when and how it wishes. The windy Spirit is dangerous.
This was no small conversation. As church readers, we should identify with Nicodemus. We need to confess that we don’t know what’s going on with this Jesus.
This is the connection of John 3:16, the place where, amid the rebellion, we find our own way home, our own salvation as a church. John 3:16 reminds the complaining insiders (here at church) that God saves sinners—even those rebellious, stiff-necked, outsiders, for it is “whosoever” believes (and that can be scary, even dangerous for a church). There goes that windy Spirit again, blowing down and on wherever it so desires. We can’t choose the “whosoever.” But our own—our own church’s—rebellion against God is often seen in our refusal to identify with the messy places God’s Spirit chooses to blow us. For, we see in the next chapter (John 4) that the windy Spirit blows Jesus right into dirty territory, filled with outsiders, to talk specifically to a whoring, half-breed Samaritan woman (the truly marginalized of Jesus’ day). That windy Spirit, with the news of God’s love, has the habit of showing up in all the wrong places. If we truly believe what John 3:16 says, we will accept that that windy Spirit might put us in places where are hands might just have to get dirty, with and among some very messy "whosoever."