“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.” (John 3:16)
This verse from the Gospel of John is undoubtedly the best known verse in the Bible. Children and adults can recite the verse from memory. It has been called the “gospel in miniature.”
Is it possible to use this well-known verse to change our polarized society into a more tolerant society? I think it is possible and the change can begin with you and me. First, put your name in the place of “world.” Read the verse again with your name replaced. How does that make you feel? When I do that I begin to argue with God. God, I am not worthy of your love, I am not good enough. Then, I read it again and claim it as God’s promise to me, even in spite of my feelings.
Believing that we are loved is one of the most powerful forces for change that we could possibly experience. This is a powerful force because it is love that we did not earn but can claim for ourselves and for others.
Now, here comes the part about our polarized society. I believe one of the reasons we are so polarized is we can believe this verse for ourselves, for our families and friends, even for our churches and not believe it for the person who is different from us. That person might believe something different, vote differently, look different, or speak in a different language. That person might be another person in our community or someone we see on the television a world away.
Now, I ask you to take a risk. Replace the word “world” with a person you disagree with, a person who is radically different, who might scare you, who might have different religious beliefs or a different lifestyle. Take some time and read the verse slowly with the name of the person or group you have chosen.
Now, if we can start believing that those “strange and different people” have also been created by God, loved by God and are God’s children, we just might be able to start working together to solve some of the pressing problems of our day? We might be able to see them not as enemies but fellow children of God. If we believe that God is the creator of all people, we also believe God has given gifts to all people. If we shut others out, we lose what they can offer to find solutions to the world’s problems.
I have had the privilege of travelling to many different areas of the world where I was the only Westerner there. I was the one who was different. I have come to believe we need all God’s children and what they bring to produce a better world.