“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.“
This verse from John 3.16 must be one of the most famous in the Bible. And the wonderful and beautiful thing is that it is absolutely true. Jesus’s life was one that demonstrated mercy, forgiveness, and love, in his teachings, and in his actions and feelings; and finally demonstrated in his death upon the Cross, to redeem us all from the power of sin. The most wonderful thing is that love is indeed stronger than death, and so death could not hold Jesus in its grasp, but was forced to let him go, and so the power of death was broken for all time. As Christians, we have a sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life because of the love of God embodied and demonstrated in his son Jesus Christ .
All that may sound like just theology. However, it’s also absolutely and vitally true in our own lives, and has a huge real world impact on how we live, and on our attitude and approach to life and to all around us.
St. John is often called the apostle of love, and when we look at his gospel as a whole, and also look at his letters later in the new Testament, we can see why. After all this is the disciple who wrote that we loved because God first loved us. This is the disciple who leaned upon Jesus’ shoulder at the Last Supper, and who was called “the one whom Jesus loved“.
Finally when Jesus was asked, “Which is the greatest commandment?” by a Pharisee, who was hoping to trip him up in his theology and knowledge of the law, Jesus replied, quite simply, “love the Lord your God, with all your heart, soul, and strength. And love your neighbour as yourself.“ These two commands do indeed, in the words of the Book of Common Prayer, sum up the whole Law and the Prophets.
If we can put these two commands at the very centre of our lives, then we will be responding in the best possible way to the God who so loved the world that he sent his only Son, that all who believe in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For eternal life is not merely the hereafter on the other side of death, but rather a way of living, here and now, that allows us to live life to the full, truly to enjoy and appreciate all the blessings which God gives to us, and encourages us to share those with all our fellow human beings and fellow creatures.
So this Lent, may the God of love fill you with all joy in believing, and may you shine love and light to all around you.