In John 3:16, Jesus spoke of the Father’s love of the world, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
When so inclined, men and women can consider the world as God made it and recognize God’s love of beauty in the created order and understand that it was out of tremendous love that he had created this amazing planet. Yet, when we consider the ugliness and treachery existent in the world it is much harder for us to comprehend God’s love of the world. God’s love of the world is love that was given in spite of the world’s fallen condition, which is admittedly difficult for people to comprehend.
God sent his only begotten son for people who lack understanding and people who are not quite ready to come out of hiding when it comes to their faith. This is evident from the context of Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus in the preceding verses.
Considering the passage a little deeper, God so loves those who are involved in corruption and malfeasance, as difficult as that may be for us to understand. God so loves those who are committing immorality and who are on a path to destruction. God has been clear with mankind from the beginning how he feels about immorality (Romans 1:18-32) and at the same time, he loves those who are messing up their lives and he wants something better for them. God so loves those who are committing violence against the innocent. He loves the perpetrator with the same fervent love as the victim.
This is a difficult thing for us to wrap our minds around, that God so loved the world that took his only begotten son by lawless hands and brutalized him! This fact of God’s love seems to contradict our own innate sense of justice.
Christ came and gave his life so that pimps, pushers and prostitutes could change their lives, leave those vile worlds of vice and become faithful children of God. Jesus hung on a cross for hours of agony so that addicts could break the cycle of their addictions, so that criminals could be free of their sins, even as they paid the consequences for their crimes while on this Earth. Jesus paid it all that all might live in him.
This is truly amazing that God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son so that fallen men could know God and receive an eternity that far outstrips their contribution to the good in the world. It is amazing that God not only loved his beautiful creation but that he gave so many opportunities for his people to obey and follow him. It is truly amazing that he loved, not the sins, but the sinners so much that he gave them the very best he had in order to make a way for us to have our sins washed away and forgotten, to be remembered no more.
Each time I meet a new person and hear their story I remind myself that God sent Jesus so this soul could be saved. Each time I hear of the graft and corruption that permeates numerous cultures, and each time I witness injustice, I have to remind myself that this is the world that God so loved that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.
Bryan Collins is minister of the Central Church of Christ in Dalton. His column runs the second Saturday of the month.