“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
In this one sentence, Jesus’ words frame the entire Gospel. As literature, these words are unequaled. As substance, they are beyond all human understanding.
If these words said that God loved His Son, we could understand that, for His Son was obedient unto Him, even unto death. If these words said that God loved the heavenly angels, we could understand that, for they serve Him day and night. But these words are spoken to God’s enemies, to humanity, to us. This is beyond our comprehension.
Think about it: God so loved the world, a world that does not thank or praise Him, but disobeys, despises, rejects and reviles Him and His Word, that He gave His only Son unto death to save the world. Out of His love, a love beyond our understanding, without any goodness or worthiness in us, the Father gave and continues to give. It is this love which St. Paul describes in Romans 8:32, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all — how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”
The Son so loved the Father that in obedience at Gethsemane, He prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done” (Matt. 26:42). Then out of love that surpasses all human understanding, He joyously and gladly shouldered all the sins of the world on Himself and laid down His life on the cross as payment for them.
Only in faith, that which is the working of the Holy Spirit through water and the Word, can this unexplainable giving in love be looked upon without being considered foolishness. To lovingly give abundantly over and over to a weak, poor, wretched enemy who constantly is attacking and provoking an overwhelming destructive response is foolishness. But not to God.
To a watching world, Christian giving in love is also foolishness and not understood. Each time the offering plate is passed and Christians give out of love, the world sees this as foolish, misguided and downright stupid. The world’s response echoes Paul’s words to the church at Corinth: “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14).
By the power of the Gospel, we give this resounding reply to the world: We believe, without full understanding, that “ . . . God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” And because God first loved us and gave, we love Him. In response to His love, we gladly give as we have been given.