For God So Loved…

A famous verse from the Bible. Even if you’ve been spending time on Mars or refusing to watch football games (like me). The one you see on signs on youtube videos from sporting events (even if you’re not watching the game). John 3:16.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16, ESV)

Usually this is foisted upon people like some sort of magical elixir. “All you have to do is believe in Jesus, and you’ll be saved!” goes the sentiment. Of course, this depends on how you define “belief,” because, after all, the demons also “believe” and shudder. But they ain’t saved.

However, I wanted to look at this a little different. God loved us so much He gave His only begotten Son over to be cruelly tortured and murdered for our sake. How about if I were to write a similar type of verse to God? “For Bruce so loved God that He gave”….what? “That he gave” a few Sundays to sitting in a building listening to some overstuffed overpaid preacher harangue me into sleep? “That he gave” a few bucks in the plate? “That he gave” some time in the choir for the Christmas play, or helped with coffee at the sunrise service? “That he gave” a few minutes to say “grace” for a meal or two? (Oh, and a couple times he even “gave” the grace for a meal in an actual restaurant where everyone could see him!) “That he gave” a grudging few minutes a year to actually reading God’s Words squeezed in between episodes of his favorite TV shows when he had the time and wasn’t too busy with grasping after the world’s kingdoms?

Or would I say, “I looked everywhere for your words. I hungered and thirsted after them. I ate them and drank them as if they were life itself. I took the huge amount of ‘grace money’ or ‘talents’ (way more than ten talents of gold) you gave me through the blood of my friend and made more out of it. I changed my diet as you asked. I celebrated the holidays you gave me. I worked six days as you commanded and rested one, where we met together every week. These were little enough to do considering the eternal life in your Son you gave me. After a while, wonder of wonders, the “small things” and “shadows” you commanded helped me to also give you the weightier actions of mercy, justice and compassion. In short, instead of just singing about giving my life to you, I really gave it. Instead of just proclaiming the wonders of your love by chasing people down and thumping them with a Bible verse through the TV I made your love and commands the priority of my life. The light you caused to shine in me through those commands made a greater impact on others than all my words put together.”

What would I give in return for the mountain of forgiveness, grace and love poured out to me from the source of all light, life and love? All I’ve got was given to me, so all I can do is give it back. All of it. Every scrap. Throw myself on the ground in abject humility in front of His throne and give Him the crown He has given me. Not sit in judgment on which of His words I will deign to follow and which I will not. Not clutter them up with all sorts of tradition and theology that blocks access to Him. Those don’t make for much of return on the “God so loved” investment, I don’t think. I can do better than that. He made it possible. Other not-so-famous verses give the clues:

“…yet not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39).

“My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work” (John 4:34).

Shalom