There is a reason that Jn. 3:16 is held up by believers in the stands at sports events. I am sure you have noticed the camera catch this famous passage. This passage proclaims the heart of the Gospel. In fact, this famous Gospel passage reveals the heart of God. It shows that God is passionately in love with the world.
God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life (Jn. 3:16).
God doesn’t love the world as He would like the world to be. He does not love the world because it is good or perfect. God loves the world as it is. God loves it in the midst of its brokenness and pain. God loves the world in spite of its rejection of His ways. God showers down mercy on a world that often rejects Him. He doesn’t love the world only when it is good. In fact, God loves the world when it is at its worst. Like a Father who loves His kids even as he helps them deal with a drug addiction or bails them out of jail, God sees the darkest part of the world and loves it anyway.
God’s love for the world is not cheap or easy love. God is not a fair weather friend. His love is “costly,” as the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer would say. God’s love is so great that He is willing to sacrifice for the good of His beloved.
God loves us the same way He loves the world. He loves us in the midst of our brokenness and pain. He reaches out to us when we reject Him. As we see when God reveals Himself to Moses,
Having come down in a cloud, the LORD stood with Moses there and proclaimed His name, ‘Lord.’ Thus the LORD passed before Him and cried out, ‘The LORD, the LORD, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity (Ex. 34:5-6).
Even on our worst days God’s mercy stretches out to embrace us and welcome us home. In spite of our anger and rejection, God, because He is gracious, works to heal us and bring us to the peace that is only found in Him.
And God’s love for us is not cheap or easy. God’s love for each one of us is what led Jesus to the cross. God loves each of us so much that He is willing to sacrifice for that love. This is why the cross reveals the heart of God, it reveals the depths of His love for all of creation. His love for you and His love for me.
The fruit of this love, for those who believe, is eternal life. The mercy of God does not merely forgive us and heal us, but it makes us capable of living in heaven. The fruit of God’s love for us is that we are swept up into what the youth catechism calls an “eternal moment of love.”
Heaven is the endless moment of love. Nothing more separates us from God, whom our soul loves and has sought our whole life long. Together with all the angels and saints we will be able to rejoice forever in and with God.
God’s love for us and our response in faith opens the door to eternal life. God’s love makes us capable of receiving a gift greater than we can imagine, but images are helpful. The youth catechism goes on,
If you have ever observed a couple looking at each other lovingly or seen a baby nursing who looks for his mother’s eyes as though it wanted to store up every smile forever, then you have some inkling of heaven. To be able to see God face to face — that is like one, single, never-ending moment of love” (Youcat #158).
Now that is love!
No wonder Jn. 3:16 is held up for all the world to see.
May we experience how deeply God loves us each and every day.
Dcn. Lincoln A. Wood