For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
We all know this verse. It is perhaps one of the most commonly quoted scriptures--the trite verse that believers reach for in some debate or another. But how has the most well-known scripture become just empty words? How is it that we quote this verse and then pronounce judgment for our fellow man? Why do we find joy in beating "sinners" over the head with this verse and then turn our backs to them in hatred and disgust?
These are the burdens that have been weighing on my heart these past few days. And it all started in the wake of JoePa's death. Social media forums exploded with an international outpouring of grief, remembrance, respect and honor for a man who had become a legend and who had left behind a substantial legacy. But some who call themselves children of God, chose judgment. "Now he gets to meet his maker..." And with this, my heart cried out in sadness. What an awful god to serve...one who doles out punishment and retribution. One who makes sure that we get what's coming to us. And get it good. Why would anyone want to serve such a terrible god, knowing that we all sin? That we all fall short of the glory of God? Why would He be any more gentle or loving with you when it's your turn? Is not your sin just as great as any other?
And in the midst of my turmoil, my Father revealed to me John 3:16. But His emphasis was on the word world. "For God so loved the world..." The world. Meaning all of us. Everyone. Everything. All of His creation. Not just those who were perfect (because there would be no one to love). Not just those who would choose to love Him in return (because that's what we often do). Not just Christians. No, He loved the whole world!
And once I settled this in my heart, then He changed the emphasis a bit and said "For God so loved the world..." And this is Truth. The gospel, the good news, is just one big love story. In His unadulterated love for us, He sent His Son to die for us. To save us. And He said so Himself--it's just that people don't often quote John 3:17.
For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.
Yes, it's true. God did not come to judge us. Just to love us and to save us. And that is the gospel. It's simple. It's real. And it's freedom. And He offers salvation to the world. Not just the elect. Not just the ones who strive really hard to get it right. But to everyone. His love, His grace, His mercy--they're available to everyone. In any situation. At any time. Always and forever. Some will choose to accept His love and live in absolute freedom. Others will choose to reject His love. But that doesn't mean His love for them has dried up, withered or grown cold. It just means that in His perfect love there is freedom to choose.
So yes, JoePa did get to meet his Maker. But wouldn't you know--that is the one person who loves him more than anyone else ever could. And I bet JoePa had a high old time there in his Daddy's loving embrace.