“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. (NRSV)
We can so easily skate over familiar texts such as this. God’s love for us is taken for granted. Our responses to that love decide our eternal destiny. It is a wonderful if challenging foundational truth.
What makes it more remarkable is that one word we translate as ‘world’. When the word is used in this gospel, it refers to human society in opposition to God. It is not referring to sunsets and rainbows, koala bears or dolphins. It has a very negative meaning.
Which in turn means that God so loved those who dismissed, rejected and hated him, that he sent Jesus to bring them back to himself. God’s love is not reserved for the lovely or for his friends or for his pet favourites. His love is indiscriminate. It is also costly: he gave what was most precious to him in order to win back those who turned their backs on him.
It has been said that to hate those who love us is devilish; to love those who love us is merely human; but to love those who hate us is utterly divine.