I saw a tweet that hit one of my hot buttons this morning. It was a tweet that expresses a common Evangelical misunderstanding of a well-known verse of Scripture. It was this tweet:
The “so” in John 3:16 translates the Greek word οὕτως (houtōs), and it means “in this way,” not “so much.” Consider the excellent way that the Holman Christian Standard Bible translated John 3:16:
For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.
[The HCSB translators got πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων ("everyone who believes") right, too – but that is another discussion for another time.]
But modern emotionalistic Evangelicalism, as in the tweeted example here, likes to teach that “God loved the world so much that He just had to send Jesus to save sinners.” Let's think about that idea for a minute.
God doesn't need anything or anybody. God did not have to save sinners. God did not have to create us in the first place. The fact that God chose to create us, chose to allow sin into the world, and chose to save some of us from the just penalty of our sin, while reflecting God's goodness, mercy, and love, in no way implies that God needed to do anything. God is glorified in creation, He is glorified in His wrath upon unrepentant sinners, and He is glorified in His salvation of repentant sinners through the cross of Jesus Christ – but God is never needy.
God's love, like all of God's attributes, is infinite and perfect, so to try to tag God's love with qualifiers like “so much” is just silly, no matter how many o's you add to “so.”