A Bible verse loved by many, including me, is this one: “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” (John 3:16).
This Son, Christ Jesus, taught us about the greatest love any of us can express: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Jesus certainly lived such love literally, dying on the cross so that through his resurrection he could prove Life, God, to be eternal, and we can be endlessly grateful for that. It’s also important to honor those who lost their lives in defending our freedoms or who selflessly choose to help others while putting their own life in harm’s way.
But there is also a deeper meaning to Jesus’ words that we can all practice moment by moment. It is a willingness to selflessly “lay down” a materially based sense of life full of fearful uncertainty, replacing it with a life not only filled with more love and care toward others, but also grounded in an understanding that the real source of our “everlasting life,” including our livelihood, is God.
This has been proved to me in many ways. One example was when I lost my job 16 years ago. While there were certain justifications behind the decision, not unlike the position many unfortunately find themselves in today because of the pandemic, from my perspective the situation seemed largely unfair.
But I understood that I had a choice to make. I could either let outrage, anger, or despondency take over my thinking, or I could choose to “lay down” unhelpful ways of thinking and keep my thought aligned with God, divine Love.
For instance, I was very tempted to hate some of the individuals involved, but through my prayers I felt a deeper sense of God as Love, reflecting limitless love throughout creation. And I found I was able to honestly begin to love those people as God’s children.
I also initially felt very afraid for my family’s financial well-being. But soon our prayers led to a greater trust that God’s love was sustaining us and would never forsake us. And evidence of the truth of this came in due course, when I secured a new and even better position at the place where I am still productively employed today.
In the end, this experience taught me how we can overcome feelings of both hatred and fear by gaining a greater understanding of divine Love, and what it means to not only know and feel this everlasting Love, but be a better expression of God’s love in this world.
The Bible describes a material sense of life, with its vices and limitations, as the “old man.” The founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, once wrote: “What a faith-lighted thought is this! that mortals can lay off the ‘old man,’ until man is found to be the image of the infinite good that we name God, and the fulness of the stature of man in Christ appears” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 15).
This willingness to lay off a concept of man as a sinful, hating, mistake-ridden, selfish, fearful, vulnerable mortal enables us to glimpse “man in Christ,” which is the real man and woman of God’s creating. This is our true identity, entirely spiritual, incapable of hate or fear, flawless and pure, eternally – made in the image of God, who is eternal Life itself.
This brings us back to the last part of that Bible verse I opened with, the part about having everlasting life. That’s an understanding that our life truly is eternal – without beginning or end, without mortality or limits of any kind. So when we’re willing to lay down hatred, condemnation, and even fear and to instead express the love God has placed in our hearts – to love our neighbors throughout the world as ourselves, to see them as God does – we’re living our true nature, our everlasting spiritual life in God.
To return full circle to the first part of that Bible verse, yes, God so loved the world. And God still does. This infinite, divine, and perfect Love can never be overwhelmed, stopped, or cut off from us in any way.
Recognizing this empowers us to love the world as Christ Jesus taught, and to help heal it too.