John 3:16.

Arguably the most often quoted, well known verse of them all. Bet if you’ve spent any time at all in a church, you can quote it in King James without thinking.

…forGodsolovedtheworldthathegaveHisonlybegottenson…

It rolls off the tongue, in Middle English no less, for just about anyone.

This is the thing about John 3:16 that struck me fairly recently, and that I’m hoping will strike you. It doesn’t mean what you think it means. What you think it means is this:

God loved you SO much, so VERY much that he gave his only Begotten Son, and whomever believes in Him, will not die, but they’ll have everlasting life instead.

It’s close, but really, it’s a little different. Actually, you might think I’m crazy, but I think the difference changes the tone of the whole thing. I think it’s kind of a big difference.

Here’s what it really says:

This is the way in which God loved the world: He gave his only Son, and everyone who believes will not be destroyed utterly, but live forever.

Seems similar until you really think about it. It isn’t that God loved us SOOOOOO much. God loves us infinitely. The question of how much He loves us is unfathomable. There’s no one with long enough arms to hold them out and show us how much. There’s no one on earth who can love you as much. The amount, being incomprehensible to the finite mind, is rendered virtually irrelevant. God loves us, and that’s an infinite quantity.

John 3:16 is far more practical and far less ethereal and “feely” than we realize.

This is the manner is which God loved us. Here is the act that He did because of His love. This is the measured, real, definitive, powerful love of God. He gave up the life of his beloved Son. A part of Himself. While we were still screaming at Him in our childish pride.

I realized this, and it changed not only John 3:16, but it changed any mention of God’s love from an inestimable feeling that I couldn’t wrap my brain around, into a decisive sacrificial act of will. It changed into something by which I can measure myself when I am told that I am to love as Christ loved me. When I am told to love my wife as Christ loved the church? It’s no longer “so much”. It’s “In this very way.”

That’s a powerful realization.

 

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