I read an article yesterday that seemed to equate God loving the world with God legitimatizing all the beliefs and practices of the people of the world. The given proof text was John 3:16 which unequivocally states that “God so loved the world…” The author was correct in stating that God loves all people without respect to race, religion, sexual orientation, etc. The problem is love does not require an acceptance of anyone’s beliefs or practices. In fact, love often requires a rebuttal of false beliefs and dangerous practices.
Suppose you are attempting to cross a street. Coming around the corner is a car travelling at a high rate of speed which you cannot see, but from my vantage point, I am able to clearly see. If I had any concern at all for your well-being, I would at least cry out a warning. If I truly loved you, I would do whatever physically was possible to remove you from danger. But to do nothing and allow you to exercise your right to cross the street whenever and wherever you desire would simply be completely unloving.
After hearing my warning, you might say, “I don’t see any cars, Reiner is seeing things,” and that would be your prerogative. But your lack of faith in the veracity of my declaration will not change the fact that a car is coming and you will therefore suffer the consequences of that lack of faith. Or you might say, “There is no car coming; why is he yelling at me? He must really hate me!” No, the truth is I really do care for your wellbeing.
There is always a problem when only a portion of a biblical text is cited in order to validate a belief. John 3:16 does not end after God so loved the world. There is a significant description of that love which follows. God’s love precipitated God’s action- He gave his only-begotten Son. In the same way that my love for you necessitated me at the very least to warn you of the impending danger, God not only warned the world of eternal judgement, but did something to remedy it. The consequence of sin is death (Romans 6:23), not just temporal, but also eternal. Jesus paid that debt on the cross of Calvary. For, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
But the love of God for the world is only beneficial if it finds one to respond appropriately to it. For God so loved that world that he gave his only-begotten Son, “that whosoever believeth in him…” The saving response to my warning of an approaching car begins with appreciating my character that I would not lie about such things, believing the warning to be true, and then removing yourself from the place of danger. The verse continues that the one who believes in him “should not perish.” This indicates that there are consequences, severe consequences, for those who reject the sacrifice of Christ in payment for their sin. On the other hand, those who respond appropriately by trusting Christ receive the benefit of the remainder of the verse, “but have everlasting life.”
The evangelical (I use the term theologically, not necessarily denominationally) warning of the consequence of sin in another’s life is anything but unloving; in fact, it’s the most loving thing a person can do. To accept as valid the beliefs and practices that are contrary to the Word of God is what is truly unloving.