“Jesus Loves Me”
The children sing:
Jesus loves me,
This I know,
For the Bible
Tells me so.
Ah, but does the Father of Jesus love you? That’s a question worth pondering. You see, for years I have to confess to having misread John 3:16. I read those familiar words and understood them like this:
The Father loves me because of (and only because of) what Jesus did for me.
Which means, of course, that it is not me that the Father loves. The Father hates me and has to punish me for my sin. But instead of pounding on me, He sends Jesus into the flesh so that He can pound on Him and let me off from the punishment I so richly deserve. What a horrific picture of God!
But, of course, John 3:16 does not say that the Father loves me because of what Jesus did for me. It says, in point of fact, the exact opposite. The Father loves me and that’s why Jesus came to do what He did for me.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”
This “flip-flop” in understanding John 3:16 opens up whole vistas of grace! The Father is NOT full of rage and anger at you, ready to pounce on you for your sin, and only letting you off because He expends His anger on His Son instead. The Father LOVES you. You, the real you! He loves you in this way: that He sends His only-begotten Son into the flesh to defeat and destroy your enemies: sin and death and hell.
The cross, then, is not about God’s anger at sinners. It is about His love for sinners. If God is angry at anything, it is at sin and Satan and death – these corrupters of the children He loves. God is so implacably opposed to sin in our lives because He is so overwhelming in love with us and He hates and despises what havoc sin wrecks in those whom He loves.
So maybe the children’s song should be rewritten:
The Father loves me,
This I know,
His Son’s coming
Shows me so! Amen!