An adage is a proverb or short statement expressing a general truth.
“Slow and steady wins the race.”
"Don't put the cart before the horse."
"A leopard cannot change his spots."
"Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get."
The appeal of an adage is the way it can be applied in a variety of times and places. Adages have a way of orienting us when we feel a little bewildered.
The story we read in John 3:1-21 has both a disorienting situation and an adage to guide us.
Nicodemus – a Pharisee/super-strict-churchgoer – is confused by Jesus. At the beginning of the story, Nicodemus admits that Jesus is a religious teacher (Rabbi) and that what Jesus is doing is from God. But he is confused by Jesus’ teachings and the way he behaves in society. The religious leaders of the day were lauding the efforts of sacrifices and strict religious practices as signs of a person’s love and devotion to God. It was a “prove how much you love God” system. Yet here is Jesus – this religious teacher – changing water to wine and aiming his judicial attention at the market/systems on the temple grounds. Nicodemus is bewildered because Jesus’ justice seems aimed at religious overachievers instead of the religious underachievers.
So what does Nicodemus do? Well he goes to see Jesus -- but at night. It is the sort of move that communicates, “I know you are wise but I don’t want my friends to see me with you.” (That is SO Nicodemus.) After having a good ol’ fashioned religious debate, Nicodemus proclaims, “How can these things be?” Nicodemus’ religious-preservative nature is at odds with what he sees and knows to be true. The system that Nicodemus has oriented his life around is found to be lacking.
We have all been in these situations. Situations where what we oriented our lives around no longer seems to fit where God’s presence is leading us. When the high school graduate no longer needs the services of the school that taught them for the last few years. When we receive a call to ministry in the middle of a career in engineering.
An adage is a proverb or short statement expressing a general truth and this is what Jesus offers to Nicodemus – and the world – when we find ourselves disoriented by God’s presence.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
It’s not as short or catchy as other adages, but it is truer than any of the others. When life gets disorienting and we are wondering where God is leading us, remember these two truths:
1) God loved us first.
2) Jesus came to save us.
That’s a lot better than a box of chocolates!