For God So Loved the World

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For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

John 3:16 is probably one of the most often quoted passages as a concise summary of the mainstream Christian message. It is used as a reference to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for the salvation of the believer. Not all prominent Christians have accepted this interpretation, however. German theologian, philosopher and mystic, Meister Eckhart, took a more internally directed approach to the Only-Begotten.

“This is what the text means: ‘God has sent his Only-Begotten Son into the world.’ You must not by this understand the external world in which the Son ate and drank with us, but understand it to apply to the inner world . . . So truly does God give the Son birth in the most inward part of the spirit, and that is the inner world. Here God’s ground is my ground, and my ground is God’s ground. . . Whoever has looked for an instant into this ground, to such a man a thousand marks of minted gold are no more than a counterfeit penny.”  Meister Eckhart

When viewed from this perspective, God is perpetually giving his only Son to “the most inward part” of each one of us. In the opening chapter of John, he refers to this as the Word, pointing out that all things are made through this mystical impartation. The Son is to God what the sunbeam is to the sun. What Eckhart calls God’s ground, German philosopher Paul Tillich called the ground of Being. John says this impartation of the living Son is an act of absolute love, “For God so loved the world…” In other words, we are not born in sin. We are born out of God’s love of expression.

You’ll never persuade a Christian mainstreamer that this oft-quoted passage has more personal implications. Knowing your very existence is an expression of divine love should help set you free from any guilt around the thought that someone had to suffer and die on your behalf, simply because you were born.  

Author: J Douglas Bottorff

Doug is minister of Independent Unity, author of 8 books, musician and photography enthusiast. He lives with his wife and cat in western Colorado.

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