I made a very wise, faithful new friend this week. In our very first conversation, in which I expected to discuss career choices and general professional “shop talk,” instead we discussed things much more important and impactful. We talked about God’s love, his power, and his promise. We talked about what that has meant in his life, and what it means for me as I move forward and overcome depression and anxiety. I was able to be honest and vulnerable about where I’ve been, how I’ve struggled, and how I’m working to reclaim my life.
Possibly the most moving part of our conversation, the part that I will remember many years from now, happened when my friend pulled out his leather-bound bible, well-loved and full of highlighter yellow and note scraps. He asked me to turn to John 3:16-17. I have no actual evidence, but I would guess that this is the most famous and quoted passages of the Bible, so I knew what was coming and found the page easily. At his urging, I read the two verses aloud, my voice just slightly shaky with emotion. The passage reads:
16 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. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (NIV)
There’s a reason that passage is so popular and meaningful for Christians. In a meager two sentences, it poetically sums up the essence of what we believe. What I was not prepared for, is that my friend next asked me to read the passage aloud again, but to change all of the broad references to “the world” to personal references to ME. When I began to read, my voice cracked and I could barely see through the tears that flooded my eyes. The altered passage reads:
16 For God so loved ME that he gave his one and only Son, that if I believe in him I shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn ME, but to save ME through him.
Goodness, just typing the first phrase makes my breath catch in my throat. The passage is still true and familiar, but all the more beautiful when it is changed to remind me that my personal savior died for me (and for you). God’s salvation is for the world, but it is also personal to each one of us who chooses to accept it.
Repeat the altered verse to yourself, think about its meaning, and try not to get choked up with gratitude. I dare you.