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 . . . . Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:16-17; 17:3
John 3:16 is one of the most familiar verses in the Bible. Familiarity, the saying goes, often breeds contempt. In this case, maybe not contempt, but simple assumption. We assume what the verse means, we assume the narrative that has existed in the church context, namely that this is a verse that is about where you go when you die. That has been the predominant focus (at least in my spheres). It has become a sort of mathematical or logical equation: (God’s love caused him to send Jesus to die for us and so): Jesus + Belief = Eternal life.
The pieces of this equation are correct, but not correct enough. First, think poem and not equation, think love letter rather than recipe. Second, let’s define the three terms:
Jesus: God, Creator and Sustainer of all things, Restorer, Savior, Judge, Friend, Brother, Lord.
Belief: Know, not just know about, Trust, Allegiance, Reliance, Presence.
Eternal Life: Knowing, not just know about, Trust, Allegiance, Reliance, Presence.
Understand this: The means is Jesus, the invitation is to Jesus and the destination is . . . (you guessed it) Jesus. Eternal life is a qualitative thing not a quantitative thing. It is a knowing and flowing thing (with Jesus) rather than a ticket to another time and another place. Let me paraphrase John 3:16 this way: For God so loved the world that the creator of the world moved into the world so that the world might know its Creator and live a naturally creative rhythm of life with him as he always intended from the garden forward.
That raises some important questions that each of us has to answer:
How does that change your view of the invitation to Jesus?
How does that change your view of discipleship?
How does that deepen your view of God’s love for you?
How does that change your thought process about salvation?
Saved from what? Saved for what?
Think about these things, journal them, share your ideas with me and others.
Peace, hope and love