I just realized that maybe all the emphasis today on the scripture of John 3:16 was most likely due to today being March 16th, or 3/16. I don't see it as coincidental, and I'm sure it isn't. Today the sermon was about the conversation Jesus had with Nicodemus. The young kids sang "God So Loved the World", and so did the adult choir, doing the wonderful a cappella arrangement by John Stainer. For those of you who may not know that most famous of verses, it goes as such:
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life" (Sorry, but there is a lyricism to the King James Version which I love).
Now, I will say that growing up in church, that verse was implanted on my brain, and was the only one I knew better than the 23rd Psalm. But like all things that you learn by rote, I really had no meaning for me.
Within the last couple of years there has been some more shall we say "flexible" translations of the Greek text that, particularly with this verse, show a new light and bring a new meaning to that well-known, oft-cited, and well-publicized text. I will say, doing a bit of research on these newer translations or paraphrases, that they do not alter the core meaning. What I discovered is that they emphasize something that we really don't understand too well from not only the KJV translation, but even newer translations, like NIV or the new American RSV.
"For God loved the world so much
that he gave his one and only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him
will not perish but have eternal life."
I want you to look at that opening line again, and read it out loud. The impact of that alone changes the deeper core meaning of the verse.
"For God loved the world so much"
Do you see that? See how that meaning changes it? The KJV translation and subsequent translations really don't give you a sense of how much God loved the world. I could say "I so love waffles on a Saturday morning", or "I so love a good steak paired with a bottle of cabernet sauvignon", or "I so love a good belch after beer and pizza." Really gives you a sense that you are distant or just mainly satisfied with it. "I so love my wife" or "I so love my kids" again sounds trite and in essence, just an emotion. But loving something SO MUCH - that's different. It sets a different tone. A tone of earnestness, a tone of longing, a tone of desiring for. That, to me, really is the essence of God, if He is a God of Love. He loves us SO MUCH that he made that ultimate sacrifice. If I say "I love my kids so much that I'm going to work my ass off to make sure they have money to go to college", that indicates a sacrifice of something else on my part. I might not be able to do a nice vacation with my wife for our 15th anniversary, or buy a brand new car, or even get something done on the house, because I love my kids SO MUCH.
Do you see? Do you understand? God loved the world SO MUCH. Not a bit, not just a little, not when it was convenient, not when we did what we were supposed to do. He loved us so much IN SPITE of what we did! And in that love he became man, sacrificed himself on the cross to sin, and in turn, saved us. That is true love.
Soli Deo Gloria