There remains one thing to explain. In what is perhaps the best known text of the Bible, Jesus says:
“For so God loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
Almost everyone interprets this as a declaration of the extent of God’s love, but at first is not what it says. The word ‘thus’ or ‘for’ means ‘that way’, and rightly so, because that is the root meaning of the Greek word.
We are dealing here with typical Jewish thinking.
Someone to love is not having an emotional feeling; it is to do practical things. If you love someone you must mean that you do what is good for him.
God says in Malachi:
“I have loved you”
and immediately the counterdemand of the people is:
“Where hast thou wrought your love?” (Malachi 1: 2).
So it is with the command:
“Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44).
It does not being asked to us that we would find our enemies the sweetest and most sympathetic people on Earth. To try that would be wasted energy. It prompts us to do something; we do despite their hostility, to what is good for their sake, and that we in any way possible are trying to do away with their prejudice, as would it be our natural human tendency. In that light, we understand that John 3:16 tells us what God has done for us to show us his love. It is as it were the answer to the question of the people in Malachi. Only secondarily we realize that, if this is the solution that God has chosen for us, that also tells about the extent of God’s love. But the verse initially indicates this is the way of God’s act has consequences. If this is God’s solution to our problems – and that is what the passage tells us – then it also means that this is the only way, there is no other!
Dutch version: Verlossing #9 De enige weg
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