The Antiochian Archdiocese’s 2020 Creative Arts Festival has as its theme John 3:17, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” Learning and understanding the meaning of this verse is pivotal to our Christian life, for it encourages us to examine condemnation, salvation, and judgement. In context, this verse also affords us the opportunity to choose for ourselves how to respond to God’s offer of salvation through Christ. Advance study of John 3:17 will help us be ready to teach our students about it, whether or not our parish is participating in the Festival.
Rosemary Shumski, Creative Arts Festival coordinator for the Antiochian Orthodox Department of Christian Education, reflects on the theme in this guest blog:
Let’s examine this quote in context. Most of us are more familiar with the quote from John 3:16, which precedes it, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should have everlasting life.” We then have our Creative Festivals Theme, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3:17) This is followed by the quote, “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:18)
Here are some comments from the Orthodox Study Bible: “While Christ comes to save and not to condemn, man has free will. Thus he can reject this gift, and he becomes condemned by his own rejection.”
Jesus came into the world so that we could be rescued from condemnation. The name “Jesus” literally means “God saves.” He came to show us how we could be reunited with God. In his book, The Great I Came’s of Jesus, Fr. Anthony Coniaris states, “Before Jesus came, we were a fallen race. We needed not a judge to condemn us but a Savior to raise us from our fall…Jesus said, ‘Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but those who are sick. I have come not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.’ We needed someone to lift us, to heal us, not someone to judge and condemn us.”
Because Jesus became incarnate, He is like us in all ways except sin, so He understands His people. Jesus is compassionate, because He knows what it’s like to be tempted. But we have to make the choice as to whether we want to turn away from Him or repent and turn to Him. God didn’t create us to be robots. Because He gave us free will, we have to make that decision for ourselves.
Find more information about the Creative Arts Festival theme for 2020 here: http://www.antiochian.org/dashboard?name=Creative%20Festivals%202020
Here are a few lesson plans and ideas for teaching children about John 3:17:
Preschool and Kindergarten students will take a look at Adam and Eve’s disobedience and contrast it to the Theotokos’ obedience in this Church school lesson that helps to prepare them to artistically respond to John 3:17: https://antiochianprodsa.blob.core.windows.net/websiteattachments/2020%20Preschool-%20Kindergarten%20Creative%20Festival%20Lesson%20Plan.pdf
Students in grades 1-3 will discuss terms like “condemn” and “save”; put in order line art icons that illustrate phrases from the Creed describing Christ; and brainstorm ways to unite themselves to Him in this Creative Arts Festival lesson: https://antiochianprodsa.blob.core.windows.net/websiteattachments/2020%20CREATIVE%20FESTIVAL%20LP%20GRADE%201-3.pdf
Students in grades 4-6 will talk about salvation without judgement, using fun activities involving Lifesavers candies and some role-play; then closely examine how the Church helps us on our journey to salvation in this lesson on John 3:17: https://antiochianprodsa.blob.core.windows.net/websiteattachments/2020%20CF%20LESSON%20PLAN%20GRADES%204-6.pdf
Middle and high school students preparing for the Creative Arts Festival will engage in discussions about condemnation, the stages of salvation, and judging self vs. judging others in this lesson: https://antiochianprodsa.blob.core.windows.net/websiteattachments/2020%20Creative%20Festival%20Middle%20School-High%20School%20Lesson%20Plan.pdf
Find ideas of ways to incorporate the Creative Arts Festival theme, as well as additional activities for teaching about it here: https://antiochianprodsa.blob.core.windows.net/websiteattachments/2020%20CREATIVE%20FESTIVALS%20USING%20THE%20THEME%20THROUGHOUT%20THE%20YEAR.pdf