For God so loved…
First phrase of what may be the most famous verse in the bible. At least in Evangelical circles. Even the bottom of In-N-Out soda cups have John 3:16 printed on them. Why? For many Christians, this verse is the gospel in microcosm: For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him will not perish, but have eternal life.
Problem is, we won’t investigate a premise we think we already understand. But how much of what this verse originally meant has survived being translated from ancient Aramaic to ancient Greek to modern English as interpreted by modern Westerners and eventually…Americans? Every phrase in this verse can mean something radically different in Aramaic, but since the whole thing points to eternal life, we can start there. The concepts of both world and eternity are conveyed by the same Aramaic word: alma. Ancient Hebrews saw both the world and life around them as generations of never ending cycles of newness and diversity, so eternal life, hayye d’alma, was not life that goes on forever hereafter, but life that is eternally alive, new, exciting, abundant—herenow.
This originally Eastern, Aramaic gospel is not about passively and mentally agreeing to believe in a savior who guarantees life after death, but actively trusting the child of God’s unity to the point of risking our first steps toward making sure the life we’re already living is spiritually alive.
And the key to being able to take those first vulnerable steps lies in that first phrase: God so loved. When we hear so loved, we think how much. Quantity. But the Aramaic word, hakana, means thus, in such a manner. Quality. Answers how, not how much. How could it? If God’s love is perfect, infinite, it has no degree, can’t be measured.
Anything that can’t be measured always looks the same no matter who’s looking
Filling in the blanks: God loved all creation by birthing his own unity in human form, that whoever trusts, follows, and fulfills that unity in themselves will not fall away, but will have life that is always new, abundant, and alive.
That’s a gospel worthy of the bottom of a billion soda cups.