We often confuse motive with attitude. Someone says a harsh word of warning and we assume a motive of hate, when instead it was out of love and intended to keep us from falling off a cliff. In the same way, we often feel that all criticism is negative, when it can also be offered to improve on some aspect of what we are doing. Likewise, God didn’t send Jesus into the world to send anyone to eternal punishment – but to save them from it.
If you’ve been following along you know that we have covered all of John 3:16. But, you may also have noted that whenever we quoted John 3:16 it was always with John 3:17. That was on purpose. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” (John 3:16–17, NASB95)
God did not send Jesus into the world to judge the world. It was judged already. Instead, from a motive of love, God sent Jesus to save the world. Notice that when you combine 3:16-17 a pattern of world, personal, world emerges. There is an “I” aspect in our relationship with God, but there is also a “we” aspect that we often lose or minimize.
God didn’t send Jesus on a mission to judge the world but to save it through His love. Our mission from God is same. God doesn’t save us so that we may judge the world but so we may join His mission of saving the world through His love. Church folk often lead with a step of judgement instead of a step of love. The world and all that are in it are judged already, it is not our job to add to or prove that judgement, but instead we are to point to the grace of God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ.
Let me put it this way. Judgement and eternal punishment are real things, but the language of the Gospel is attractive instead of judgmental. Winsome instead of repulsive. Well-meaning folks have often emphasized fear in their presentation of God’s Good News and minimized God’s love. Fear is a powerful motivator, but effective faith grows best through love.
Believe me, I understand the desire to call folks to account for their sin. Maybe to go so far as to level a judgement of condemnation against them. We may wrap these condemning statements with a pretty bow of love, but the real motivation is often to prove our own convictions and worth. Along my journey I’ve learned to trust the Holy Spirit – He brings conviction of sins and knows their heart much better than me. My “job” is to point to Jesus and the love He offers.
For the sake of clarity. There is a proper balance to be struck in our attitude and presentation which is heavy on love, free from judgement yet not ignoring the bitterness of our guilt before God. We’re all sinners in need of a savior. God so loved the world that He sent His only Son, not to judge the world, but to save it from destruction to eternal life through believing in the work of Jesus Christ.