John 3:16 is one of the most powerful passages in Scripture; and quite possibly, one of the most misunderstood. For several decades it adorned the bellies of large, shirtless men in the end zones of football stadiums. It became a placard and we allowed it to become trite.
But today, Church, it is really important for us to get its meaning. The depth of its meaning. The largeness of it.
In the midst of a culture and time that did not receive Jesus for who he fully was, Nicodemus, a teacher of the law, snuck under the cover of darkness to chat with this rebellious, strange and yet powerful teacher. It is in the context of Jesus being radically counter-cultural to his time, that he says these words, “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.”
Let’s repeat the first phrase and then add another passage to it. For God so LOVED the WORLD… The whole world – everybody who lived and everybody who would live. The whole world. God loves the world so much that he did this while we were yet enemies toward him – Romans 5:10!
Church, when we didn’t know God nor like God, God sacrificially became a servant (Philippians 2) and even died on our behalf. God didn’t yell at the world. He didn’t yell at us. He didn’t organize a petition or pass out signs. He didn’t even ask the Roman government to change.
Church, we used to enjoy the privilege of living in a world that looked mostly like us most of the time. But that time is gone. We can grieve that loss much the way Jesus grieved over Jerusalem in Luke 19. We can grieve, yes.
But we must also love. Church, will we be enough like Jesus to love like him? Will we love a world where we are no longer dominant? Will we love a world where we no longer fit in? Will we love a world so radically that we sacrificially give ourselves the way Jesus did?
Or will we keep living for ourselves…?
Today, more than ever, Church, we are being invited to step up and demonstrate deep, sacrificial love in such a way that we reflect the glory of God (Hebrews 12).