My mind has recently been traveling back to the days of standardized testing in high school. Every other year or so, without fail, we had to take some state-required test that measured our reading, vocabulary, writing, and mathematical comprehension. It usually took about a week to complete, and the first day was utterly monotonous!
We would start by writing each letter of our name into a separate box, and then bubbling in the corresponding letter below, being careful not to go outside those pesky bubble lines (as that was always such a big point each teacher made). Then we would move on to our dates of birth and demographic info such as gender and race. Strangely, I always felt bad for the students whose names were too long to completely fit on the sheet. It’s somewhat symbolic of a higher power being able to say that your specific identity is not important, just your results on this test.
Being a decade past my standardized testing days, I began thinking of what those annoying front pages must look like today. Do they have more than the two standard options for gender (or just a third “I prefer not to say” bubble)? When will it become socially acceptable to start “identifying” with a race that is not our biological one, and what races will we come up with for that? Nonsensical questions for the nonsensical world we now live in…
In the middle of all of these questions and random thoughts about tiny pieces of life and the way they change, God interrupted me. He brought to mind an age-old verse, and whether you believe in God or not, I’m sure you’ve heard it or read it before.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” -John 3:16 NKJV
God redirected my thoughts with His own, and gave me a whole new perspective on a verse many would consider to be cliche.
“For God so loved..” has a theological connotation that speaks to God making a decision in eternity past based on his foreknowledge of eternity future That’s just a fancy way of saying God made a decision before time began based on factors only He could see. But don’t get lost in the lingo, focus with me on the decisions that God made.
First, He decided to love the world before time began. He decided to love human beings before they were even created. And He decided this knowing that the world would be full of opposition to Him and His love. He saw that millions of people would deny His existence. He saw that men, women, and children would kill other men, women, and children. He saw that sin would be an ever-growing evil inside all of our hearts. He saw that we would chase after money, sex, drugs, fame, fortune, and so many other things before we would ever consider chasing after Him. Yet, He chose to love us.
Second, He decided to give us His only begotten Son. Some of you may read that previous paragraph and argue that a supposedly loving God would not allow all the violence and evil in the world if He knew that was the direction we were heading. But because God knew this, and because God chose to love us, He sent a solution to everything wrong with the world; an unblemished lamb, a perfect sacrifice, His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.
This is unfathomable. The God who created the worlds and everything in it, knowing how His own chosen people (the Jewish nation) would respond to His Son (they murdered Him), sent Him to be a propitiation for our sins. Despite our evil intentions, despite our selfish ways, despite our murderous ambitions, and despite our constant railing against Him and His way, God excused our sin by taking it all upon Himself in the form of a crucifixion upon a cross.
This is the greatest love.
God is not some higher power that wants to cut your identity short in life. In fact, He stepped down from His throne in heaven, humbled Himself by taking on the form of a man, subjected Himself to arguably the most excruciating form of capital punishment anyone has ever gone through, and was raised from the dead three days later just to make sure you know your true identity.
So what is it? What’s your identity?
You are greatly loved by God.
But wait, “I’m gay!” or, “I’m transgender!” or, “I’m a murderer!” or, “I’m ___________!” Fill in the blank with whatever you want, God loves you. He’s not worried about the results of your standardized test, He’s worried about how you handle the test of everyday life. He doesn’t see you as some statistic, He actually knows every single hair on your head. And He doesn’t care what gender or race bubble you identify with, but rather the Lord who created you and formed you has called you by your name in Isaiah 43:1. He screams out to you that He loves you and forgives you in Luke 23:34! God has already decided, He will always greatly love you.
Last but not least, going back to our “cliche” Bible verse, God decided that, “whosever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.” He decided to let you make the final decision on this whole matter. This means He also decided not to make you love Him. He decided not to create a bunch of mindless, little robots programmed to love Him back. In the message translation of the Bible written by Eugene Peterson, “Jesus has his arms wide open for you,” in 1 Corinthians 16:23 ready to receive your love in return. But he will never force it from you.
Here’s the smallest recap: God decided to love you before time began. He loves you so much that He decided to send His Son to die for you, taking on and paying for all of the world’s sin. He loves you so much that He decided not to ask you to change who you are or how you act, but only to believe in Him and the greatest love that will ever exist.
Will you make that decision?
My friends, if this post spoke to you, please realize that God is speaking to you. Ask Him to be your savior. Make the decision in your heart before Him and you will have everlasting life. If you don’t know what to do or say, simply pray something like this from your heart: “God, thank you for loving me. I am a sinner and need the gift of your son, Jesus. Thank you for forgiving me of my sins, I gladly receive your life for my own. Amen.” If you made that decision, reach out to me and let me know. You can find my contact info in the About section of my website. God bless you.