"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)
It may not be the first verse you learned, but it is probably the most popular memory verse in the entire Bible... and for good reason. It is probably the best 'Gospel' explanation in verse form in all of Scripture. In that statement we find God, people, love, Jesus, faith, death, and eternal life. That is a potent concentrated sentence about salvation. And it came from the lips of Jesus Christ Himself.
One of the things we find there, and flow over so easily is this concept that God loves the entire world. It may be accepted, but is it really grasped? It has become popular over the last decade or so for people who want to drive home the point of God's love to tell seekers, "When you read that verse, put your name in there. 'For God so loved Suzy that He gave His only begotten Son...' Do it. Put your name in there. Make it personal. For God so loved Peter, Jamal, Candace, Stan, Julie..."
The idea is that some people may not feel loved by God or in line to receive eternal life. So if they realize that a personal God was thinking about them when He devised a plan for redemption, it may help them accept eternal life. I get it. And there is definitely a truth there. But it also seems to feed our individual focused culture. It can easily turn our attention toward us, and how awesome we are because God loves us, rather than how awesome God is to love unlovable people like me. Because while God loves you as much as He loves anyone, it is important to remember that God loves everyone as much as He loves you. Now that is a task right there.
We have a love affair with ourselves. We may say that we have low self-esteem, but the reality is that no generation has ever been more enamored with itself than this one. We are constantly told how awesome we are, and how loved we are. We do not lack for attention. We are loved because we have thousands of friends who like our stuff, right?
But the verse says that God sent salvation because He loved the world... the whole world... everyone... even the people no one loves. And that's the rub. We can kind of understand that God loves us. Because when we feel down about ourselves, someone is always there to tell us how unique we are and reinforce our personal worth.
But get this... God loved Osama Bin Laden. And... sit down for this one... God loved him as much as He loves you. Yes. Take that. God loved Hitler as much as He loves you. God loved Barack Obama as much as He loves you. God loved Trump and Clinton as much as He loves you. God loved Charles Manson as much as He loves you.
How about we make it personal for an individualistic generation? Forget the famous monsters and "unlikables." I want you to think about that person you dislike the most. Go ahead. Get that name and picture in your mind. I'll wait. Don't read ahead until you have the person in your head and your face starts to tighten up thinking about them.
Got 'em? Ok... God loves them. God loves that person you hate. And here you go... God loves them as much as He loves you. Goodbye Mister/Miss Pride. All of the love God has for you, He has for that person. Just like God wants the best for you, He wants the best for them. Just like He lavishes goodness on you, He lavishes goodness on them. Just like He wants to spend eternity with you, He wants to spend eternity with them. Just like He wants to be merciful toward you, He wants to be merciful toward them. Just like He sought after you as a lost child, He seeks after them.
Still thinking about that person you can't stand, and hope falls off the planet today? God loves their horrible soul as much as he loves your awesome one. So maybe... just maybe you need to treat them differently. Maybe instead of putting your name in that spot in the verse, you need to put their name in the slot. Go ahead and try it... "For God so loved ____________________ that He gave His only begotten Son..." Now, say it until you can do it without struggling. In fact, why don't you say it until tears run down your face because you love them like God does? Now put those other names in there? Those names you can't stand to say, and those names you love the most. Be thankful that God loves the unlovable as much as He loves the 'adorable'.
Today you get to show the world that John 3:16 is true. How cool is that?!?
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My name is David, and I want to know God more, and help other people find Him.