John 3:14–21 (NRSV)
Verse 14And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, Verse 15that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. Verse 16"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. Verse 17"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. Verse 18Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. Verse 19And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. Verse 20For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. Verse 21But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God."
Many of us have had painful experiences of what we thought was “love” in various types of relationships. Superficial affection, self-interest, and even abuse can masquerade as love and make us doubt if such a thing even exists.
This familiar gospel reading shows that real love is God’s love, defined as a gift (see verse 16). Not just any gift, but the gift of God’s only Son, Jesus, who willingly died humanity’s death so that all can live abundant life both now and forever. Love is manifest not only in the gift itself, but also in God’s act of giving sacrificially for the benefit of others. Divine love calls and capacitates people to give of themselves to God and others for the sake of true relationships that build up, not destroy.
As we journey toward the cross, we are called to surrender false notions of love and our very selves to the One who is true love.
Loving God, forgive us for the ways we have hurt or failed to love others. Pour your love into our lives to heal our wounds and free us to truly love you, ourselves, and the world for which you died. Amen.