John 3:16 “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, so well known, can easily be taken for granted. In these few words we find expressed the deep and abiding love of God for his creation. Gifts of great value are evidence of affection and that’s why the verse begins with an expression of God’s love. God loved the world so much that he was willing to give his very best as a gift. He didn’t create something to be used as a sacrifice, but chose to give his only begotten son for us.
The foreshadowing of this event begins when Abraham is asked to give up his son Isaac. This father-son love is a bond which is difficult to explain and the love of God is beyond our comprehension. John Chrysostom writes, “We put gold necklaces on ourselves and even on our pets but neglect our Lord who goes about naked and passes from door to door. . . . He gladly goes hungry so that you may be fed; naked so that he may provide you with the materials for a garment of incorruption, yet we will not even give up any of our own food or clothing for him. “ (HOMILIES ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN 27.2–3.) That which we are willing to surrender will reveal the depth of our love.
We cannot truly accept the gift unless we recognize the cost involved. It is in that cost that the love of God is revealed to us and in accepting the gift we also realize the implications for our own lives. We are restored as God’s children and as such, we continue to give the best gift to the world around us. That is why Chrysostom argued in his sermon that we too are to sacrifice to reach a world in great need. Because God loved us he gave us the best gift. Because God loves us, we give others the best that we have.
This is one of those verses that we are encouraged to memorize from a young age. While that is a good thing, it may also mean that we have become so familiar with the words that we take them for granted. The implications are huge.
We’ve just passed through the Christmas season and this is a time of gift-giving and receiving. It’s a time when we are challenged to think about what it is that we want to give others. I know that for most of us we try to imagine what it is that they may want, or what could be of significance to them for we want to give the best gift.
God gave the gift that cost him everything. He sent his only son — the son who was of his own nature. This wasn’t something or someone that God had created for companionship or to be a sacrifice, but his son, eternally begotten from the beginning of time. God loved the whole world, so much so, that he gave up the very thing that was most precious to bring us salvation.
What are we willing to do to bring the good news of salvation to the lost around us? It seems that the idea of evangelism has lost some of its luster these days. Maybe we have been frustrated with programs and tactics of the past but that should never dampen our passion for those whom God loves! We have been blessed with the best gift but we are also responsible to pass it on. The gift is not just for us to hang onto and enjoy, but there is enough to share.
The best gifts have some kind of cost involved — whether personal or financial. If we are to help share the best gift, we must be willing to pay the cost. God loves the whole world. We are to be his ambassadors of love sharing his gift. Are we willing?
Lord, the thought of your gift overwhelms me. Thank you is not enough — but I am so grateful for what you have done. Amen.
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