Week of March 25: God's love is unconditional, with no strings attached
By DOREEN SMALLS
Lesson for week of March 25
Scripture: John 3:11-21; Numbers 21:4-8
The third chapter of John’s Gospel introduces us to a conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a member of the ruling council. Jesus informed Nicodemus that “no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (John 3:3). Nicodemus was certainly confused by this statement. He thought Jesus was referring to a physical rebirth instead of a spiritual rebirth. While a physical rebirth is impossible, a spiritual rebirth (new birth) occurs when God restores our relationship to Him through Christ. God changes our former sinful nature into a new nature of holiness and life. It is not because of our works we are born anew but it is because of Christ.
Nicodemus was searching for answers about his spiritual life but he was still focused on earthly things. Jesus told him, “I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man” (John 3:11-13). Jesus presents himself as the one who is qualified to reveal heavenly things since he is the one who has descended from heaven.
“If you pray right, heaven belongs to you. If you give right, heaven belongs to you.” These words are lyrics from a song penned in the 1980s. They indicate that heaven is the reward if you pray and give in a certain manner. Our access to heaven is not recompense for praying and giving. Our entrance to heaven is through Jesus Christ. The author of John tells us “that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:15).
It is not our works that grant us eternal life but it is through the gift of salvation. Eternal life does not commence with the death of a believer but begins when we accept Christ as Lord and Savior. It begins here and now in the life of the believer. It is a quality of life that is lived in the presence of God. When we live in the presence of God, we experience those heavenly things such as joy, peace, hope and love.
It is not because of good deeds we perform that enable us to experience heavenly things. Jesus warned the Pharisees and scribes against righteous and legalistic living (Matthew 5:20). It is our relationship with Christ that creates heavenly things.
There are few things in our lives that are considered unconditional. The old adage, “It comes with strings attached” is pretty common and true in most situations. If one works 40 hours or more per week, then we will receive compensation and benefits for work performed. Politicians and special interest groups make promises based on certain conditions and stipulations.
The writer of John’s Gospel reminds us of the one thing that is unconditional: God’s love for all humanity. Jesus explains to Nicodemus that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in may not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). God exhibited his love for the world by sending His Son to the world. God’s love for the world is so profound and powerful. God does not love a select few or a certain group of person with specific characteristics or traits. God’s love does not come with “strings attached.” It is infallible and infinite!
It is still hard for some people to believe that God loves them. They reflect on their past mistakes and experiences and conclude that they are exempt from God’s love. Please remember that God’s love is bigger than all experiences, past, present and future. We need only to accept the fact that God loves us. Believe that God loves us.
In the scripture John 3:16, replace the word “world” with your name. For example, “For God so loved [your name] that he gave his only Son.” Say that not only in silence but repeat it aloud. God really loves unconditionally and wants to be in relationship with us.
How has knowing God loves you unconditionally made a difference in your life? How do you spread the word that God’s love is unconditional?