“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. 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
John 3:16 is perhaps the best known and best loved verse of the whole Bible. Why? Because it summarizes so well the heart of the gospel message; but equally important and not quite as well known is verse 17 which states quite clearly that the intent of God coming into the world in Jesus Christ, was not so God could condemn the world (meaning the people God created in the first place) but that God might save the world—might save, not only us, but the whole world—including those people that we may have a difficult time believing God could and would save, like mass shooters, rapists and child molesters, or that neighbor or co-worker that we just can’t stand.
Last week we looked at the importance of grace for us as Christians—grace being the love that God bestows freely upon us through Jesus’ work on the cross, even though we do not deserve it. This week, we must struggle with the fact that if God loves us even though we do not deserve, then God must also love those who we so often deem as un-loveable or unacceptable to God.
Or as Dave Daubert, the author of our ‘Lutheran Trump Cards’ study writes, “As a matter of discipleship, we are committed to hoping that hell, should it exist, is empty and not full. Our confidence in God’s grace for us calls us to hope that God will be gracious with others—even those who are different from or offensive to us. This is not confidence in humanity. It is a commitment to the grace of God being beyond that which we can define. The bottom line is that Lutherans are committed to the belief that trusting God’s work in Christ brings life. We live out of that faith and the hope and promise that comes with it. But we are not willing to say “to hell with everyone else.” We hope and pray for the best for all people, hoping (some would say “expecting”) to be surprised by a God of amazing grace.”