More Than Words Can Say: The Love of John 3:16 in My LGBTIQ+ Faith Journey

I've encountered this verse countless times, and it's arguably one of the most well-known passages in the Bible. One particular memory stands out vividly in my mind. It was a day when my late friend Herbert Morris, affectionately known as Bert among his friends and the author of An octogenarian looking back invited me over to his home for prayer and a cup of tea, and just so you know, I'm a fan of English breakfast, and there can never be too much tea for me. Coffee isn't really my thing; I am definitely of English descent! 


Each time I visited, I would bring along my Prayer Book for Australia, and together we would go into scripture. On this particular occasion, Bert asked me to recite John 3:16 several times, and then he recited it himself, placing special emphasis on the word "so". At the time, I assumed it referred to the depth of God's love for us... but as I later discovered, Bert was highlighting a deeper meaning. He urged me to ponder not just the extent of God's love, but the manner in which it was expressed. That simple emphasis on "so" sparked a profound shift in my understanding. It wasn't merely about the quantity of love, but rather the quality – the sacrificial and unconditional nature of God's love for each of us.

Reflecting on that moment with Bert, I realized that John 3:16 wasn't just a verse to recite, but a truth to internalize, shaping how I view God's love and my own relationship with Him. Bert asked me to write a short essay about our reflections on John 3:16, but alas, I never got around to it. So, here it is – something not too stiff, but hopefully enough to bring a smile to your face.


John 3:16, a cornerstone of Christian doctrine, has been recited, memorized, and cherished by believers worldwide. Yet, beneath its surface lies a linguistic subtlety that has profound implications for its interpretation—the often-overlooked word "so".


In looking into the renowned message encapsulated in John 3:16, we unearth a depth of divine love that transcends familiarity. Amidst its ubiquity, it is easy to overlook the gravity of its words. So, let us take a moment to contemplate the profound significance of this verse and rediscover its transformative power afresh.


John 3:16 declares the identity and mission of Jesus, as well as the outcome of believing in him. It portrays the immense love of God for humanity, demonstrated through the sacrifice of his son. This act of sacrificial love allows those who believe in Jesus to receive eternal life.


Traditionally, the verse has been understood to emphasize the magnitude of God's love, portraying it as an endless ocean, vast and boundless, inviting individuals to immerse themselves in its depths. However, a closer examination of the original Greek term "houtos" suggests a shift in focus from quantity to manner—a shift that reframes our understanding of divine love.


"Houtos" is a Greek word found in John 3:16, translated into English as "so". In Greek, it serves multiple functions, including indicating manner, method, or consequence. Its usage in John 3:16 has sparked considerable discussion among scholars and theologians due to its nuanced implications for interpreting the verse.


In this context, "houtos" shifts the focus from the extent of God's love to the manner or method in which it is expressed. Rather than simply quantifying the magnitude of God's love, it directs attention to the quality of that love and how it is demonstrated. This subtle distinction has significant implications for understanding the nature of divine love and its implications.


By emphasizing the manner of God's love, "houtos" invites us to consider the sacrificial and selfless nature of God's actions. It suggests that God's love is not merely measured by its vastness but by its character—boundless, gracious, and sacrificial. This interpretation challenges conventional understandings of God's love and prompts deeper reflection on its implications for our lives.


Furthermore, "houtos" underscores the intentionality behind God's actions, highlighting the deliberate and purposeful nature of His love for humanity. It suggests that God's love is not arbitrary or conditional but founded in His divine character and desire for relationship with His creation.


The word “so” serves as a pivotal word in John 3:16, inviting us to explore the depths of divine love and its transformative power our lives. Its nuanced meaning challenges preconceived notions and opens up new avenues for understanding the profound message of the gospel. Therefore, “So loved” then isn’t about how much, but instead simply how (Jones, 2023). This viewpoint may prompt us to contemplate that "agape" often known as the highest form of love in Christian theology due to its selfless and unconditional nature, finds its fullest manifestation in the concept embodied by the term "houtos". While "agape" embodies selflessness and sacrifice, "houtos" draws focus to the approach or manner in which such love is exhibited.

Paul's discourse in Acts 17:24-25 reinforces this perspective, affirming that God, as the creator of all, requires nothing from his creation. This realization reshapes our understanding of salvation, highlighting Christ's sacrificial act as an expression of the Father's love for the Son and his desire to glorify him. Consequently, believers are not objects of divine necessity but recipients of unmerited favor, invited into a profound relationship that mirrors the eternal communion between the Father and the Son.

In considering the implications of John 3:16 for LGBTIQ+ people and progressive Christians, we find a message of inclusivity and love that transcends traditional interpretations. The reevaluation of "so" invites us to embrace a God whose love knows no bounds, welcoming all into its embrace regardless of sexual orientation or theological stance. For LGBTIQ+ people who may have felt excluded or marginalized by certain interpretations of scripture, John 3:16 offers a radical affirmation of their inherent worth and dignity in the eyes of a loving Creator.


In conclusion, the reevaluation of a single word within John 3:16 offers profound insights into the nature of divine love. As we reflect on the significance of "so" we recognize that amidst the complexities of theological discourse, it is often the nuances that yield the most profound revelations, reminding us of the transformative power nestled within a single word. This understanding brings to mind the cherished memory of my late friend Bert the bee keeper, whose infectious laughter and faith enriched this discussion. So here's to Bert, and here's to John 3:16, a verse that continues to inspire and uplift, especially when shared with a dear friend over a cup of tea.

Citations:
Jones, K.S. (2023) How god loves us: The meaning of ‘so,’ john 3:16, 1517. Available at: https://www.1517.org/articles/how-god-loves-us-the-meaning-of-so-john-316 (Accessed: 22 May 2024)

More Than Words Can Say: The Love of John 3:16 in My LGBTIQ+ Faith Journey More Than Words Can Say: The Love of John 3:16 in My LGBTIQ+ Faith Journey Reviewed by Shane St Reynolds on May 22, 2024 Rating: 5

No comments: