The All-Important P.S. to John 3:16
“For God so loved the world that God gave God’s beloved Child, so that everyone who believes may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send their Child into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” – John 3:16-17 (NRSV)
This passage includes one of the most well-known verses in the Bible, John 3:16. “John 3:16” can be found on t-shirts, memes, bumper stickers, signs at sporting events, even on the eye-black of an NFL quarterback.
John 3:16 is often used as a litmus test. If you believe in Jesus (which is code for “if you believe what I believe about Jesus”), then you will be saved from eternal damnation. If not, your ultimate destination is bleak. The verse is used and abused as a pretext for condemning people to hell.
I think the writer of John saw that coming as he first penned 3:16, so he included an addendum—a postscript—as a safeguard: “Indeed, God did not send their Child into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17).
When John talks about the world being saved through Jesus, he’s not envisioning a luxurious post-mortem retirement in the clouds for those who “accept Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior,” a phrase which occurs exactly zero times in the Bible.
For John, salvation begins now by checking the impulse to condemn, and committing instead to the Jesus way of love, forgiveness, nonviolence, doing justice, showing mercy, walking humbly. In short, to love the world as God loves it.
Jesus did not come to condemn. For that, we should be eternally grateful. Jesus came to love and serve and thereby to save.
World Lover, help me check the impulse to condemn others and to love as Jesus loves.
Matt Laney is the Senior Pastor of Virginia Highland Church UCC in Atlanta, GA and the author of Pride Wars, a fantasy series published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for Young Readers. The first two books, The Spinner Prince and The Four Guardians are available now.