‘For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life’John 3: 16
This is probably the most famous, and most well-known verse in the entire Bible, because it is literally the entire gospel summed up in just one sentence…
It’s the one you get taught to memorise in Sunday school as a child. It’s the one you hear most frequently quoted, and see plastered across all kinds of bible memorabilia too.
It’s kind of like the ‘Guinness beer’ of Bible verses, which is probably the best beer in the world (if the ads are to believed).
And yet sometimes such familiarity can breed a bit of complacency too.
‘For God so loved the world’ can just so easily and mindlessly roll off the tongue, if you’ve been in church for any real length of time.
But lately I’ve been reading it a bit differently instead…
In fact, lately I’ve been reading it a bit more like this:
‘For God ‘soooooooooooo’ loved the world’
He didn’t just like it, or love it a bit half-heartedly, just because He is God and he has to be loving because it’s in his job description.
He didn’t just ‘sort of’ love it, or even love it ‘quite a bit’.
He soooooooooo loved it.
In fact, He loved it so much that He willingly gave His one and only beloved son.
I have a son, and since having him, this verse feels much more meaningful to me. Because there’s no way that I would willingly give him up for anyone. He’s the only child I’ve got.
But God loved us that much.
How utterly mind-blowing is that?
I wonder, do you really know that you are loved by God that much? Loved with an all-encompassing, un-fathomable, immeasurable, and un-ending kind of love – a love that would give everything it had?
What’s more, this verse also says that He so loved ‘the world’.
And that means not just ‘special’ chosen people like religious people, or even just good people – but the world – which is kind of all encompassing, don’t you think?
The promise of salvation is extended to ‘whosoever’ believes, which mean all people; all races, all nationalities, all religions, all sexualities, all backgrounds, all beliefs.
No one is excluded. No one is disqualified or counted out. What incredibly, wonderfully good news!
And yet how often do our religious communities over-complicate or water the message down by proclaiming a lesser, more prescriptive, more exclusive, and more narrow kind of a gospel?
But it’s here in black and white. He loves ‘the world’ and He came for the ‘whosoever’.
And even though not everyone may be living in the full knowledge of His loving presence, the Bible says He loves them all the same.
So I wonder how you can and I can live with a bit more awareness of that love today, and if we can somehow invite others into experiencing it too?
Even people who look, and think, and speak, and vote, and worship, and live differently to us…
And isn’t THAT truth the really scandalous, grace-filled, and incredibly good news of the Gospel, summed up in just this one sentence?