If you’ve been following 14 Days of Love (14 days of Bible verses about love), then you probably knew it was coming…John 3:16…and here it is.  I saved it for the Lord’s Day, the Sunday before Valentine’s Day.

It’s been said that John 3:16 is the most quoted verse of the Bible.  We hear it, we see it on signs at sporting events, we might even have it memorized, but do we really think about what it says?  What it means?  As you read it today, let it speak to you about love…about God’s love for us… and about God’s love for you.  I’m also sharing the next verse, John 3:17.  It’s one of my favorites.

DAY 12:

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.   – John 3:16

 God did not send his Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it.    – John 3:17

If you’re a parent, can you imagine giving up your child?  Go a step further.  Can you imagine giving up your child not for the benefit the child, but as a gift for others? Now go another step further.  Would you give your child into the hands of people who would mock, abuse, and attack your child to the point of death?  Unimaginable, right?  Well, that’s what God did.  Why?  Because He so loved us.  *

Until I was 40 years old and took my first Bible study, I thought God was the mean, scary one and Jesus was the nice one.  Then I took Disciple Bible Study and started reading the Bible from the beginning.  The God who emerged wasn’t mean or scary at all!  He was very loving!

His love is evident from the very start when He creates the world.  He creates this amazing world with animals and creatures of every kind.  After every step of His creation process He pauses to say His work is good.  He’s not boasting, He’s pleased with His craftsmanship.  His handiwork isn’t just ‘good enough, it’ll do’.  His work is good!  But good as it is, He isn’t satisfied with His creation until He creates man.

 Have you ever wondered why God created man?  Of course I don’t know for sure, but the Bible says we’re created in God’s image.  We have a heart, soul, mind, thoughts, feelings and emotions.  If we reflect the image of God, then He thinks and feels the same as we do. One of the feelings we have is love. We have the capacity to love,  because God has the capacity to love and He shared to ability to love with us so that we could love Him in return. I believe God is a relational God who wants to be in loving relationships with all of us.

What’s interesting about God’s love is that it’s not controlling.  God had the power and ability to create us like puppets or robots, people He could control to respond to Him as He desired.  God didn’t do that, though.  God isn’t controlling, He’s loving.  There’s a huge difference.  God is so loving that it wouldn’t be fulfilling to Him to control our feelings.  He gave us the ability to live and love freely so that we’d be free to choose Him.

Oh, but giving us the freedom to choose also meant giving us the freedom to reject.  He knew that, but He created man in His image with the freedom to choose anyway.  And what happened?  Adam and Eve chose to reject God’s instruction, ate the forbidden fruit, and brought sin upon man.  From that time on, man has messed up and lived a sinful life.

In the ancient days of the Israelites, God helped the people atone for their sins by making sacrifices.  The people were to go the to Tabernacle or Temple and sacrifice the required animal, usually livestock from their herds, or animals they purchased – and it couldn’t be just any animal, but the best animal, an animal that wasn’t flawed.   It was a bloody mess at the altar where the appointed priests helped with the sacrifices.  There were sin offerings, peace offerings and guilt offerings.  Sacrifices continued until Christ’s death.

When you hear that Christ died on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins, it’s literally true.  God gave His one and only Son, the only One who walked perfectly on this earth, as the perfect sacrifice, once and for all, to cover the sins of His people, including you and me today.  Would you give up your child to cover someone else’s sins?  Would you allow your child to suffer at the hands of others like Jesus did?  I don’t think I could. I don’t have the capacity of love to make such a sacrifice – but God did.

God is our Heavenly Father and He loved us, His children, so much that He wanted to free us from our sins, once and for all, so that all who would choose Christ as their Lord and Savior could be forgiven, and then be free to live in the light and love of Christ, not just on this earth, but eternally in heaven.   (For a great read about heaven, go to Revelation chapters 20 & 21.)

That’s where we come to the second verse, John 3:17.  Christ didn’t come to condemn us for our sins.  He came to save us from them.  We will be convicted, but not condemned.  We are convicted so we can be saved.  We can be saved because we are so loved.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.  God did not send His Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it.  – John 3:16-17 

Father God, on this Your day, we thank You for Your love.  You loved us enough to share Your beautiful world with us so you could be in relationship with us, and to give us the freedom to love You in return.  When we messed up, You still loved us and gave Your one and only Son as a Sacrifice for our sins.  You truly are a loving and gracious God who gives us much more than we deserve.  As we think about love, let us be grateful for Your love and the love of Christ, who willingly gave Himself on our behalf, and who came to teach us how to live and love.  May we, in return, strive to love others as You have loved us.  Amen.

* Please read the first paragraph in the context for which it is written.  Many loving parents have found the courage to give their children to others when it’s been in the best interest of the child.  I admire and commend those parents, as well as those who receive them.  Please know that’s not the situation I refer to above.  May God bless all who have been part of adoption situations.