No text may be better known than John 3:16. We see it at ballgames and we hear it from Christians regularly. Most of us who have any background in the Christian faith learned it before we heard almost any other Bible text. Luther said this text was "the gospel in miniature."

But is this text all there is to Christianity? Some evangelicals seem to think so. They treat this as a kind of magical verse that unlocks the door of life to all who say it and believe it. (What does it mean to believe it?) What happens to all the texts that speak about things like "loving your enemies" (Matthew 5:43) or Micah 6:8, "What does the Lord require, but that you do justice, and love mercy, and walk humbly with God." Does a "simple faith" in the words of John 3:16 settle everything and we are "one and done?" Even simple readers of the Bible should recognize that this approach is reductionistic to the extreme.

John 3:16 describes how the mission and ministry of Christians is to be defined. God so loves the world that he enters it, lives in relationship to it, and dies to save it. He now comes to us in the person of this same Jesus, who poured our the Spirit in his place. He calls us to trust his love and to follow the vision of life he embodied in love. He calls us to give our hearts and minds to him and to seek and follow him all the days of our lives. This is what the gospel does in those who receive it and who experience the life that Jesus and John call "eternal life"

The Christ of John 3:16 is a verb. He comes into the world because he loves the world. But he is also an example. He shows us how to live in love. He is the question but he is the only answer. He bids us to see his love in everything in this world since he renewed it (Colossians 1:15-20) and will renew it totally when he comes again (Romans 8:18-30).

God is love. Christ came to reveal that love to us so that all might know that God is not a distant divinity but a very human person who loves and gives. Do you believe the gospel and do you then seek to live it in your life day-by-day? You do if you are a real Christian.

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  1. Ed Holm March 24, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    I am rereading a book by Maggie Ross who is an Anglican solitary on the notion of “kenosis” which concerns itself with the radical self humbling of God to become incarnate in Christ. Part of that is the willingness to take on the suffering of others as the ultimate expression of love. Ross discusses the notion of Jesus’ most being God while on the Cross in that it demonstrates God’s ultimate life for us in His willingness to suffer for us. Many mystics, including St. Francis, have actually prayed to share in the suffering of Jesus so that they might understand to some personal degree the depth of love shown by Him.
    Anyway, this is interesting and timely with events going on in my life right now and (perhaps) by many as we are called to share the sufferings of others.

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