Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
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Sometimes, the most familiar verses are the least understood. Take, for example, the King James Version of John 3:16, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." The overall meaning of this verse is clear, but there is one small change that ought to be made, and when it is made, a brighter understanding of God and His love shines through. It has to do with the little word, "so".
The phrase "for God so loved the world" is more perfectly rendered, "for God in this way loved the world". In the days when the King James Version of the Bible was written, I assume that "so" was understood by readers to mean "in this way", but we English readers have a tendency to read this phrase as "for God loved the world so much that He gave . . ." The apostle John's point here, however, is not that God loved the world so much that He gave His Son but that God loved the world in a way that the world did not expect or comprehend. John was talking about the kind of love God has, not how much of it He has.
In Romans 11:33-36, Paul extols the excellent majesty of God's wisdom and power, but here, John extols the excellent majesty of His love. Just as God's wisdom is treated with contempt by the wise of this world (1Cor. 1:18-20), so the love of God is disregarded by people who know only the kinds of love that are of the world.
God's kind of love is tough. The way God loved the world was to send His Son to die. That was His way of loving us because no other kind of love could help us. Nothing but death could atone for sin. Moreover, the way God loves His children now is to scourge them, spiritually, so that their souls may be cleansed from all unrighteousness (Heb.12:6). Every child of God who will be judged worthy of eternal life must "endure unto the end" (Mt. 24:13), but one of the most difficult things for us to endure is God's kind of love. In Revelation 3:19, Jesus said to one of his anointed pastors, "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten; be zealous therefore, and repent!"
When we understand God's kind of love, we are less likely to become discouraged during difficult times for we know that if we did not need the trial, our heavenly Father would not have given it to us. Just as God gives us a kind of peace that the world does not know and cannot give (Jn. 14:27), so God offers to us a kind of love that is frightening in its power. When we see this, we at last understand that the world has rejected God's love in Christ not because there is so much of it but because of the kind of love that it is.
The way that God loved the world was to send His Son to the agony of the cross. He sends us to our own crosses as well because He still loves the world that way. It is still His will that the world have lights shining, as His Son shined while here on this earth, to show all men the tough, winding road that leads to eternal life.