United Church of Christ

For God So Loved the Cosmos

For God so loved the world, God gave their only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life. 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. - John 3:16-17

Despite their non-judgey, non-condemny tone, have you ever heard these verses used as a pretext for scaring people into salvation/heaven?

If so, here are three things that might help:

1. These verses are not angling toward heaven, hell, or purgatory. “Eternal life” in John’s gospel isn’t never-ending existence after bodily death. “Eternal life” is about abundant life here and now.

2. For John, Jesus is the door into eternal-life-right-now, also known as “salvation.”

3. These verses are not about people, at least not exclusively so. Jesus does not say, “For God so loved human beings that God gave…” Jesus says, “God so loved the cosmos” (“world” is “kosmos” in Greek). That includes flora, fauna and fungi; earth, wind and fire; rocks and clouds; protons, electrons, neutrons and quarks; blackholes, nebulae and dark matter. God loves all of it because all of it is God’s love.

One might argue these verses are reserved for beings capable of believing. But who’s to say only humans believe and worship? The Bible doesn’t say that. According to Scripture, all of nature (which includes every cell of your body) praises and worships God.

The cosmos is not separate from you or outside of you. You are it. You are God’s love. That’s what Jesus came to reveal, then and now.

Prayer
Lord, although the cosmos is a very big place, I’m grateful there is no room for condemnation.

ddauthormattlaney2014.pngAbout the Author
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.

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