Read John 3:17
17 “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. (NRSV)
To hear some church people, it seems that God’s plan is to consign certain people to hell. His overarching strategy is to ensure sinners get their just deserts. There is just a speck of truth in this. Those who reject God’s mercy expressed through Jesus cannot live forever with him: they have made their choice. And it is true that sin has to be punished as long as we remember Jesus copped that punishment for us and if we accept him we are not punished.
But we are not dealing with a vengeful deity who is licking his lips at the thought of punishing those who displease him. We are dealing with the God revealed in Jesus who came, as our text reminds us, to show mercy rather than condemn. Indeed those who refuse his mercy will find themselves condemned. But not because God wants it or even plans it.
His great plan is salvation, rescue, blessing. All that other stuff we bring on ourselves. The message our world so badly needs to hear is that there is hope for all who are lost, there is an invitation to live Jesus’ way for those who formerly despised it. The message we need to shout from the rooftops is not the badness of the human condition (though that is a terrible reality) but the goodness of God.
A very old hymn spoke of there being a wideness in God’s mercy. May we never give the impression that this mercy is grudgingly rationed out or only for those whose way of life accords with what we deem to be respectable. It is not cheap mercy, but it is ever so wide.