The verse starts out with this preface,
“For God so loved”This beginning line implies that God, the only one who holds the power and fate of mankind, is driven by love.
God, the only one who holds the power and fate of mankind, is driven by love.
For me, it reminds me of an old song I used to sing as a young girl byPoint of Grace where the words read: “God loves people more than anything, more than anything He wants them to know, He’d rather die than let them go, cause God loves people more than anything.” It’s an anthem of truth that sank deep into my heart and I am so thankful that I have carried it through so many weathered seasons. For this part of the verse, the idea that God felt such love sets the stage and is ultimately the theme for what follows next.
“that He gave”God’s love manifested itself in what way? Giving. He loved, so He gave. As humans, we give around the holidays, sometimes spending thousands upon thousands of dollars for what purpose? Sometimes it is out of pressure, obligation, or habit… but every now and then it is done out of an expression of one’s love. When I read this, I am reminded of when my husband proposed to me in Ireland. He came prepared with a beautiful diamond ring and it was his life’s savings (up until that point) at the ripe age of just eighteen. He emptied his bank account, not to impress me, but because he wanted me to have a forever symbol of his love for me. God’s gift was even more costly, but He gave because His love for us was so profound.
He gave because His love for us was so profound.
“His only Son”This part of the verse is what chokes me up the most. What He gave was an irreplaceable part of Himself. I often think about what it must mean to give until it hurts and honestly I cringe at the idea. Truthfully, I don’t even want to go there in my mind, let alone allow my hands to experience that amount of loss. Yet, because of God’s lavish love, He gave the thing that mattered to Him most – His son. If you are a parent reading this or you recall the story in Genesis where Abraham is asked to sacrifice his son Isaac, you can understand the deep inexpressible sorrow that this kind of sacrifice requires.
“That whosoever”I want to pause on these words because whosoever cannot be understood with a judgmental heart. The author of John 3:16 made sure the reader knew that this was no country club or special access offer. This is not about being good, favored or exclusive. This is for anyone and surely this served as a valid point that needed to be addressed as Gentiles and Jews alike were all invited into this promise.
“Believes”Out of all the words in this verse this is probably the most glanced over – what does belief mean within the grand scheme of faith? We all believe in things that have no weight in our lives. For example, we believe that two plus two equals four, but that does not impact how we live out our days very much. Yet, the belief that comes with proclaiming Christ is often lost in our comfy, cushy Church life. You see, belief in almost every context throughout history meant tension. To believe meant to pick a side, it often meant defying government, kings and leaders. To believe in Christ impacted every aspect of living. It consumed a person so much that their beliefs instilled deep commitment. I often feel we have rushed passed this significant point of what true belief looks like so that we can offer good news of everlasting life. However, we can’t reap the benefits of what is promised until we take action and begin to believe in a way that shapes us daily.
we can’t reap the benefits of what is promised until we take action and begin to believe in a way that shapes us daily.
“Shall not perish but have everlasting life”An exchange happens here, a promise that gives us a new ending. It is also the promise that what we foresee as the end becomes the beginning. I have been fortunate to have only attended a few funerals and the one that stands out is my husband’s grandfather (a man who had major influence in my life as well). I can say without doubt that this wonderful man not only left a legacy, but lived in his belief of Christ every day. He often shared with us how his faith impacted everything he did both within his very successful business and family life – something that in the end rang true to everyone who knew him. While sorrow was evident the day he passed, I also know that the exchange promised in this verse meant that everlasting life, an endless number of new days, began for him. We all have this beautiful promise because of an undeserved gift that was birthed through love when we live in this belief.
While you have perhaps heard the John 3:16 message at nausea, I pray that you will read it with a fresh perceptive. Consider what deep love is, ask for a life that is unafraid to give abundantly and challenge what true belief looks like in everyday life. We are not to use this verse in a hazardous way, scarring people into commitment because that belittles God’s sacrifice. We are to reverently live this out, allowing God’s love and our belief in Him to stir us to live our lives a little uncomfortably. We must rediscover what it meant for those who heard this verse so long ago (knowing that the news was truly good) and accept the tension that comes from living with unapologetic faith in all circumstances.