As a child John 3:16 was one of the first Bible verses I memorized. It is so engrained it comes to mind almost effortlessly. Sometimes there is a danger in this.
In the effortless, I have overlooked the miraculous. I have recited this verse so often it sounds ordinary and mundane, but nothing about it is ordinary or mundane. So often I have just accepted it, failing to delve into its richness.
As I prepare for Easter this verse has been on my mind:
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. – John 3:16 NIV
“For God so loved the world…” God doesn’t just love those who love him. God doesn’t just love those who obey him. God doesn’t just love those who try to live good lives. God loves the world.
Everyone ever created, God loves. Regardless of whether they reciprocate that love, obey him or consider themselves good people. God loves EVERYONE!
God is love (1 John 4:8). Jesus embodies love. Love incarnate. He left the perfection of heaven. He took on the body of a mere mortal. He lived an ordinary life on earth with all its restrictions, weaknesses and suffering. He suffered on the cross and endured temporary separation from God (Matthew 27:46) so we could be with him for all eternity.
When I think of Jesus, I am overwhelmed by his love. Love compelled Jesus to come to earth. To be born as a helpless baby. Love compelled Jesus to heal the sick, the blind and the lame. To raise the dead. Love compelled him to have compassion for the harassed and helpless (Matthew 9:36).
Love compelled him endure the cross. At any moment he could have gotten off the cross. He could have said – Timeout. This is too much. They aren’t worth it. But he didn’t!
In his unfathomable love, he not only endured the cross, he asked God to forgive those who crucified him:
Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” – Luke 23:34a NIV
During his time on earth, Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandment:
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” – Matthew 22:37-40 NIV
The two greatest commandments hinge upon love – love God & love others. In life, our foremost priority is to love God.
When we love God and experience his overwhelming unconditional love, we are empowered to love others well. To love them unconditionally. To love sacrificially. Selflessly. I should be so filled with God’s love that I can’t help but love others:
I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you too are to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you have love and unselfish concern for one another.” – John 13:34-35 AMP
Paul referred to Jesus’ love as surpassing knowledge. His prayer for the Ephesians was for them to grasp Jesus’ love and be filled with it:
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. – Ephesians 3:17-19 NIV
Grasping God’s love is paramount. Walking in this truth transforms lives. Love brings freedom. Freedom to know we are loved regardless. Freedom to let others off the hook to fill this need.
We all crave love. Some of us have been denied love. Or love has been conditional. God’s love is not like human love. Just like salvation, we can’t earn God’s love (Ephesians 2:8-9). God freely gives it. We can’t lose God’s love (Romans 8:38-39).
Regardless of whether we accept or deny God’s love, the truth remains – we are loved. So what about you? Did you know you are loved beyond compare (Ephesians 3:15)? Do others see you as loving? I hope this Easter season as we reflect upon the cross, we not only accept God’s love, we embody that love to others.