Perhaps one of the most quoted scripture, John 3:16. I cannot begin to count the “John 3:16” signs I have seen at NFL football games and other sporting events. “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.”
The problem is not the verse itself, but often the way it is used. Taken out of context, it is often used to beat non-believers over the head, attempting to use the fear tactic in changing their non-belief.
Often I am tempted to hold up a sign that says “John 3:17”. (You have heard me say it before, and I will say it again: Read on!) It is amazing how scripture appears to change when rather than taking it out of context, we read scripture in the context of the story, or the book in which it appears.
In this case, John 3:17 declares “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” The passage goes on to talk about judgment as if it is something for God alone, and not for us to be deciding. Our focus in on good deeds and staying in “the light.”
It turns out that John 3 warns against the very thing that people intentionally or unintentionally do with their “3:16” signs. By casting judgment on people, we miss the point of God’s purposes for us.
For John, everything seems to stem back to the premise that he laid out at the beginning: “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” Everything that follows is an explanation and expansion of that main thought.
And where does that leave us as believers?
It means that our lives’ focus have changed. We are to revel in the wisdom that is all around us. We are to enjoy God, celebrate God, and feast on the goodness of God, sharing that feast with others. We are not to disrespect God by taking on the position of judgment or condemnation.
We are to seek love in everything we do – in every relationship – in every place we go.