John 3:16 is a famous verse that is not specifically about the Holy Trinity but reveals much about who God is and what God is doing.
The words, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him may not perish but have eternal life” come to us not as a faith statement or creedal formula but in the midst of a specific conversation between Jesus and the inquisitive Nicodemus who came to ask his questions of Jesus in the night.
So what does John 3:16 say?
“God loves the world.” God does not forsake or abandon the world. Neither does God look begrudgingly at the world nor gaze fondly upon the world from a distance. God loves the world (the self-giving, other-focused kind of love), and through that love God gets involved in our mess, our sinfulness, our brokenness and our judgment of one another. God (gave, bestowed, presented, committed, granted) the Son through that self-giving, relational love. To receive that love (through the Spirit) is like being born again (or starting a new life).
This passage is not so much a definition of God as the Holy Trinity, but in it we can see the wholeness of God at work in the Father’s love given for us, the gift of Jesus made alive in us and a new life in the Spirit lived through us.
What this passage also reveals to us is Jesus’ willingness to meet us where we are and shine; even as we come with questions under the cover of darkness.
Could it be that the Holy Trinity is not so much an intellectual formula to comprehend as it is way to see God as an engaging relational mystery who is loving, approachable and life-giving?
How might we locate ourselves in that love?
What might it mean that Jesus came: “Not to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through him?”
What might it mean to believe?
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