“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”
God So Loved the World
So which world is it that God loves? Is it the world, the creation in its original glory, or is it the world that is fallen, broken, imperfect, sinful? Well, of course it’s both.
-Br. Mark Brown
Transcript: Our theme for today is “God’s love for the world.” John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” That’s, of course, one of the well-known and most beloved verses of the entire Bible. You can even see it at ballgames. John uses the word “world” a lot. In the fourth gospel, the word “world” appears about 80 times and that’s four times as many times as the word “world” in all three other gospels combined. So it’s a word that means a lot to him and it keeps recurring in the gospel.
But it seems to mean different things. On the one hand, “world” means the world as God created it. This first chapter, the first chapter of the Gospel of John, talks about the world coming into existence through Christ, the living Word of God, and so it refers back to Genesis and God’s creating the world through the word, by speaking the word and when he’s done, he pronounces it very good so there’s that sense of the “world” being what God has created and being good.
But there’s also a sense in the gospel that “world” means perhaps what we might call the fallen world. Jesus says to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world.” He refers to it in other places, to “the ruler of this world,” meaning probably the devil or the adversary of our nature. He speaks of the peace that he can give that the “world” cannot give and that the “world” doesn’t know him or doesn’t understand him or his followers.
So which world is it that God loves? Is it the world, the creation in its original glory, or is it the world that is fallen, broken, imperfect, sinful? Well, of course it’s both. God loves the world that he created but he loves the world even in its fallen and broken state. It says that he came into the world not to judge but to save this world.
So if I were praying with this passage, I think I would personalize it and reflect on how God loves all of me, not only whatever I might be in my heavenly perfection eventually, but all of me, even now – the good, the bad and the ugly, all things together – and give thanks that God’s love for me is so completely unconditional. If for me, then for everybody else as well, even those we might be tempted to judge.