Friday, March 5, 2010

John 3:16 Part 1


John 3:16 is a passage most Christians are thoroughly familiar with.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (NIV).

Just about every Christian knows John 3:16 by heart. You even see people at football games holding up signs that say nothing but John 3:16, which must be awfully confusing for football fans who don’t go to church. Growing up in my youth group we would get together and play games on Friday nights. Sometimes we would compete to see who could memorize more Scripture, but John 3:16 didn’t count. We never got any points for that verse or “Jesus wept”; it was assumed that everybody already knew it.

Although John 3:16 is a verse that very many Christians are familiar with I believe there is more to this little verse than most people realize. I believe that if we are willing to listen, God is prepared to reveal to us dynamic truths concerning this passage of Scripture. It’s funny how God often chooses to use the little things to teach us great lessons. I believe that within this little passage lies the heart of Christianity. Within this little passage lies a paradigm, far too often overlooked. Within this little passage is a model for how every person who is a believer should live. I am convinced that it will take a lifetime for the believer to fully live out the truth of this little passage. Let us go on to discover what the Spirit has to say through this passage and let us be strengthened by God’s grace to live it out.

Upon reflecting on John 3:16, there are four truths that jump out at me. They are simple but profound, and have the power to permanently transform the perspective of the believer. I believe that if a person can grasp the full meaning of this little piece of Scripture, that person will never be the same. The four truths are: 1) God loves the world. 2) God demonstrated his love through action. 3) God demonstrated this love through a particular kind of action: giving. 4) God gave that which was most precious to Him: Jesus.


“For God so loved the world…” upon first glance this statement doesn’t seem too profound. God loves the world. Yes, yes, we know already, I can imagine someone thinking, but if we take the time to truly think about this we will see just how radical this statement truly is. God loves the world. Can this be true? Is God really aware of the implications of declaring his love for the entire world? I have to admit I struggle with this part of the passage. It would be one thing if it said that God loves some people in the world, you know, the good people. That’s not what it says however. This little snippet of this tiny passage says that God loves the world, the whole world, not just parts of it, the entire world. Every human being that exists today, every human being that has ever existed, and every human being that will ever exist, God loves. There has never been now will there ever be a person who God does not love. This is amazing.

We don’t live in a perfect world. This is a huge understatement. This world can be a terrible, terrible place at times. There are all sorts of people in this world and they are not all good. There goes another huge understatement. The world is just teeming with evil people. I am reminded of this every time I pick up the newspaper. Just recently I was reading about a young man who killed a woman who was only twenty-two years old. He also killed her two year old son. Police arrived on the scene just as the man threw the trash bag that contained her dead son out the window. Does God love that man? Is it possible? As unbelievable as it sounds, I hear the Spirit of God say yes.

This world is inhabited by all kinds of evil people. There are women batterers, rapists, child molesters, serial killers, dictators, torturers who burn people alive: I could go on and on and on. There seems to be no end to the presence of those who do evil upon the face of the earth. How can God say that he loves the world? Maybe He is not familiar with how bad things get down here. Perhaps his view from heaven is obstructed. Yet, I know this is not the case. God, being fully aware of just how low the depravity of man can go, freely chooses to love each and every single human being upon the face of this earth.

Now I know that there are usually exceptions to every rule, but this one has none. Does God love someone as terrible as Sadaam Hussein, a brutal dictator who lived in an opulent palace while thousands of his people went without adequate food or clean drinking water? I hear God say yes. Is it possible that God loves Osamin Bin Laden, a man who rejoiced at the deaths of innocent men, women and children on September 11? No, it can’t be, but I hear God say yes. Now God, if I may be so bold, surely Hitler was the exception. Surely, you don’t need me to remind You of the Holocaust: Auschwitz, the death camps, the ovens made not for bread, but for men, women and helpless children? Surely You harbored no love in your heart for a man like that? Don’t tell me You loved Hitler too… I hear God say yes.

The love of God is unfathomable. I don’t understand it. It is impossible to wrap your mind around it. How can an infinitely holy God loves such an infinitely evil world? We love people who are good, people who are nice to us, our friends and family, people who we benefit from. But God does not love the way we love. God’s love goes higher than any rocket we can launch into space. Deeper than even our sins can take us. Longer than our human arms could ever reach. Wider than the breach that once stood between the world and God. God loves the world, the whole world, all of it, the good, the bad and the ugly. Not just the Christians, not just the good people, God loves the entire world.

“For God so loved the world…’ What a thought!

Following the Way,

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