For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son,
that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
As a young believer I read this verse as a personal love note from God. God loved me so much that he sent Jesus to die for me. Reading the verse like this at this stage in my faith journey was totally appropriate. It helped me become assured that God really did love me that much. And reading this verse in this manner is totally appropriate for each and every one of us. We all need to be completely convinced of his great love for us, down to the depths of our being. However, one day my thinking about this verse was radically expanded. A visiting missionary is the one to blame for this.
This missionary came and spoke in chapel while I was in Bible college. He challenged all of us to expand our vision and be radically inclusive when we read this verse. Although it was perfectly appropriate to think about ourselves when we read it because God did love each and every one of us, the Apostle’s focus in this verse really was on the world- on each and every person on the planet.
“God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son.”
So, the missionary asked us to de-individualize our thinking, shift our focus away from ourselves, and place it where it belonged- on each and every person in the world.
Now, this missionary was astute. He knew that expanding our focus was not something that we could do on our own strength. He knew that this was the work of the Spirit. The Spirit had to expand our hearts so we could begin to see all those whom God saw- people who existed but were out of our limited vision.
More than ¼ of the world’s population has no personal access to a follower of Christ. This is over 2 billion people. The reason they have no access is because we, the Church, do not see them. Only 3% of all Christian workers work among these 2 billion. So, they remain unseen.
The missionary challenged us to pray and ask God to inject a portion of his infinite love into our finite hearts so that we would love those whom God loved. He also warned us that praying this simple prayer would transform our lives.
Since I wanted to know God and to know his heart (that is, to be concerned about the things he was concerned about) I prayed that prayer. And God heard my simple prayer. It became an integral part of my development- an integral part of a process that took me from being a growing Christian with a parochial vision into a growing Christian with a global vision.
Do you want God to expand your vision in ways that you could never have imagined? If so, ask him. The transformation he will bring will not likely happen in an instant; but, over time you will find the concerns of your heart changing- totally reshaping the way you see and care about the people in his world.