John 3:16…Do We Really Get It?
“Haters are gonna hate” says Fox News host Shepard Smith. Indeed.
Lacking in this day and time is a satisfactory understanding of just what it means to either love or hate. Who gets to say that those who stand with the biblical definition of marriage are “haters”? Shepard Smith? So am I to understand that hatred is getting in the way of others’ happiness? Well Shepard’s comments have gotten in the way of my happiness. Shall I call him a “hater”? And if I do does that make it true?
Are we really so intellectually shallow today that we actually think merely saying a thing makes it true? Am I right to infer that all Shepard and the progressives have to do is say I am a hater because I oppose homosexual marriage and in their minds it’s true? Apparently, for Shepard Smith and many others it is more desirable to call people haters than it is to reasonably assert why they support what has been roundly condemned by the entire world as aberrant and wrong from time immemorial. Could it be this route is taken because there is no satisfactory explanation for affirming homosexual marriage beyond it is what its advocates want?
Everyone seems to assume they know what “love” and “hate” mean. If “haters are gonna hate” is taken at face value then “hate” apparently means standing in the way of allowing people to have what they believe is their right to have. What they want and demand. Apparently you “hate” if you do not approve and acquiesce to others’ desires. Talk about a recipe for idolatry and unending strife! It’s fine if you get what you think you have a right to this time. What about when it’s your turn to disagree with whatever is trending in society? When the pedophiles rise up demanding to marry the children they have sexually abused and exploited will the gay rights crowd oppose it? Since they rather vociferously reject the assertion that homosexuals are latent pedophiles it seems only logical that they would oppose such a thing. Will Shepard Smith broadcast from the gay rally against pedophilia marriage that “haters are gonna hate”? And will he be right that the homosexuals who are against adults marrying their underage sex victims are “haters”?
If you were hoping this blog would continue the engaging battle between liberal and conservative issue ideology you are going to be disappointed. When I heard Mr. Smith speak those words on Fox News it just brought front and center into my mind the abysmal failure the evangelical Christian witness has been where it concerns communicating the biblical concept of love
Where do people get the idea that hate is opposing other’s happiness? I would suggest from a very shallow interpretation of the one verse that Christians have been most willing to share but not learn: John 3:16.
This world has been inundated with John 3:16. Crusades, revivals, religious tracts, end-zone placards, Sunday School lessons, devotional literature, radio and television programs have been pumping that verse out to the world relentlessly. And the world has heard…but it hasn’t learned. What the Church has been saying and what the world has been hearing is that God loved everyone so much He sent His one and only Son to die so they all may have everlasting life. God is love. John 3:16 proves it.
Well that’s true. But it’s a rather narrow and jaded way to look at it. Let’s first affirm what everyone seems willing to embrace.
“For God so loved the world…” Yes, that means just what it says. Though Israel has had (and always will) a unique and special place in the heart and plan of God, He didn’t send His Son only for their redemption. Everyone. God loves everyone. I’m on board with that.
Unfortunately for a lot of people, however, that’s not all to the verse. It starts getting a little dicey after that. “[T]hat he gave his only Son…” Now we find that “love” is defined by personal sacrifice (both the Father’s and the Son’s). The giving was the sacrificial offering of the Son on the altar of Calvary. The way it is written is intended to give the reader the idea that God’s love was so pervasive and intense for everyone on earth for all time that it necessitated the giving up of His only Son on their behalf.
Why would God feel the need to do that? What precisely was it that so incensed God that He would be moved by His boundless love to permit his only Son to be mercilessly brutalized and murdered in public? “For God so loved the world, that he gave His only begotten Son…” These are some of the questions that both the prideful and faint of heart are burying underneath the sands of their own desires.
And here is the stunning reason: “that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” This clearly lays out the claim of just what was/is at stake and what was so intolerable to God that His love moved Him to empty the reservoir of Heaven. The eternal state of everyone’s soul in “the world” was on the line. God’s “love” would not allow Him to watch while “the world” perished eternally. The world’s sin was in no way His responsibility or fault. But He couldn’t stand to see what was going to happen without His intervention.
Though that is pretty straightforward there are two things that seem to be lost on the world who has heard and continues to hear John 3:16. First, is that nuisance of a word “whoever.” The way the world is acting (such as saying “haters are gonna hate”) indicates that it believes the verse reads “For God so loved the world, that he gave his Son that no one should perish.” Why is it lost on so many that though everyone is loved by God, not all shall have eternal life? Clearly, eternal life is what God wants for everyone and His provision of Christ makes everyone a potential beneficiary of the gift. But the statement reads that only “whoever believes in him” will receive eternal life. There is no catch but there is a condition: believe in him.
Now there is much that could be said about what it really means to “believe in him” but that is the subject matter of another blog. For now, let’s look at what is implied in John 3:16 that I believe unequivocally destroys the notion that love is defined not by personal sacrifice but by acceptance. What is lurking in the background of John 3:16 that no one really wants to address? Sin and all of its nuances. Evil. Satan. Hell. Damnation.
One simply cannot fully appreciate or even minimally comprehend the drive and power of God’s love without understanding that it was compelled by the absolute destructiveness and power of sin in “everyone’s” life. Sin was such a driving and powerful force that it captured and thereby condemned the world. Sin’s power was so far reaching and its inevitable consequence so assured for all that no act could possibly undo its ultimate goal (universal death) but an act of divine compassion.
What that means (among other things) is that it was the power of sin to take everyone to hell that prompted the love of God to intervene with substitutionary atonement. Jesus took our place paying the price (death) for our sin. My question to those who think love means accepting others as they want to be is “how does that square with the love of God as revealed in John 3:16?” Let this sink in…If God “accepted” people as they were/are then what does it say about Him in sending Jesus to die for sins that really weren’t sins but are rather predilections, orientations, and/or life choices?
The whole reason God sent Jesus to die on a cross was because He DID NOT accept people (all over the world) as they were/are! He loved the world’s people but He could not accept or embrace them in their sin. If God accepts people as they want to be accepted then the whole suffering and dying on a cross thing was completely unnecessary. A God who changes His mind on what constitutes sin is far more troubling to me than a God who continues to delay His judgment on sin because He holds out hope for the masses to practice repentance (see 2 Peter 3:9).
John 3:16 teaches that love is the sacrificial provision to undo the devastating consequence of sin. It is not being accepting of sinful practices or behavior driven by idolatrous and selfish motives. That most famous Bible verse is not a license to condone sin. Far from it. It is the breathtaking reality of what it cost God to undo the consequence of sin and give us hope for deliverance from it.
“Haters are gonna hate”? No. More like:
“Would you be free from the burden of sin?
There’s power in the blood, power in the blood;
Would you o’er evil a victory win?
There’s wonderful power in the blood.”