“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him. (MESSAGE)
Such a familiar text can cause us to skim over it. But digging a bit deeper means we can see it as a most radical statement of the love of God expressed in the coming of Jesus. The significance lies in the word “world”. In John’s writings, it usually means human society in opposition to God. So, we are told not to love “the world”. Not meaning the wonders of creation and the good things God has given us to enjoy in this life. Rather meaning not to love that which is hostile to God.
So, what is being said here is that God loved those who hated him so much that he sent Jesus to put things right. Even though people largely rejected him, God wasn’t going to let things stand as they were. He didn’t want to send thunderbolts from heaven to condemn his opponents. Instead, he sent Jesus to offer peace terms.
When Jesus came to earth, he was coming to enemy territory. Yet it was territory loved by God. Jesus was welcomed by some, ignored by some, and attacked by others. His very coming, though, reminds us that God has not given up on his world even if it seems to have given up on him.