By: Dennis Bates
There is probably no New Testament Bible verse more familiar than John 3:16. If you’ve ever watched a sporting event you’ve seen somebody hold up a sign in the background with the citation. It is memorized by anyone who still does that sort of thing, and used as a key verse when evangelizing others. Even non Christians have heard it, if they’ve heard any Bible verses.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
It has been referred to as the Gospel in a nutshell because it tells simply what belief in Jesus Christ leads to: eternal life and salvation. I won’t argue about any of that, but would like to consider another aspect of the verse: the first six words. They say quite clearly that God loved the world.
Elsewhere in the New Testament we are warned not to become part of the world, nor to love it. Various ascetic groups have seized on the second verses throughout the ages. The Puritans were one of those groups, the collective groups called Plain People are another, and some modern day religious denominations are also included. In short, they claim that the world is bad and the sooner we are rid of it, the better.
There is a lot of truth in the teachings of each of these groups. Progress has not always been the gentle friend of mankind, but instead it has given us greater and easier ways to sin. The medium we are using to discuss this topic is an example. The Internet has given us the knowledge of the world at our fingertips and it is as accessible as our fingers can Google. It allows us to pay our bills without leaving our homes, purchase things the same way and communicate with others we didn’t even know existed before.
But it also provides sexual predators a ready access to our lives and worse, the lives and bedrooms of our children. It gives techno thieves access to our bank accounts and credit cards, not to mention the private information in our medical files and other personal files wherever they are kept.
But the fault isn’t in the Internet; it’s in the people and institutions that misuse and abuse it. The world is the same way. The Bible verses such as 1 John 2:15 that teach us not to love the world are referring to the perversions in the world that come from those who have rejected both the Creator and His creation. In essence, they call us to reject the sinful excesses of a fallen world, warning us to keep our focus on the creation God made for us which leads us ultimately to communion with Him for all eternity.
We should never reject the good creation, which is this world, because evil has corrupted a large part of it. After all, God created the world and He loved it so much that He sent His only Son to die for it.
How can we do less?