“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
I saw a meme on Facebook recently and the comments that came with it. I found that I struggled with what was said. The meme is below.
At first glance this looks to be a true statement – the Gospel is Good News and should not be fear based. That is because “God so loved the world” which God does. Yet, when we read what John writes in chapter 3 of his Good News (his Gospel) we see what is written in the meme is not exactly true either. When you stop and think about what Jesus says, I don’t think Jesus agrees with this analysis. Here is what I mean.
Looking at the verse above, out of love God gives His Son. So far so good. What is required of humanity? That they should believe that Jesus is God’s Son, the one lifted-up (refer to John 3:14-15). And those who choose to believe will not perish but have eternal life. Now go back and read again the meme and the John 3:16 above. Jesus does say it is about a choice and what happens in eternity. Going down to verse 18 clarifies this a bit more. It reads: “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.” (I suggest you read all the way through verse 20 to grasp the deeper problem.)
You see, the world is judged already. That is why Jesus comes to save and not condemn (vs. 17). Perishing is what awaits those in the world who choose not to believe. I don’t think it is a threat, but a statement of fact. Each person born who sins (that’s all of us) is already judged. Each person is given the opportunity to believe. Those who do not believe that God loves and saves through Jesus, the “given Son,” are already judged. The result, according to Jesus, is no eternal life but perishing.
Does this drive fear into folks? Yep, sometimes.
Is it a mechanism of control, manipulation and deception? Well, was Jesus a deceiver? I don’t think so.
Is this meme presenting the truth of the Good News? Well, not exactly. It is not completely true and so therefore is a lie. (The evil one is quite deceptive, isn’t he?)
Then what should we take from this?
The Good News is Good News, because it is the way God gives us to escape the judgment we rightly deserve and be restored to new life that is eternal in Christ. If we do not receive this gift, we reject the good news and will lose life eternal and be estranged from God. This is why sharing the Good News is so important. It gives hope, forgiveness, restoration and eternal life. Let’s start getting out there with the real Good News. Too many lives need to hear the truth.
This is a simplistic response in that there is much more to this Good News. Today I am simply addressing the meme. Maybe I will tackle a more in-depth response to Good News and fear soon.