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You may have read John 3:16 dozens of times and even have it memorized. But I’d like you to read it again and pick out your favorite word. The one word that is most meaningful to you: “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.”

Until recently, my favorite word was “loved.” But then I began reading Max Lucado’s book, 3:16: The Numbers of Hope,1 and my new favorite word became “whoever.” I don’t know how I could have missed the power of that single word in this text.

Jesus deliberately chose this word to make God’s gift of love and Jesus’ sacrifice inclusive. He didn’t say that the perfect shall not perish but have eternal life. Nor did He say it was a gift to those who worked hard enough to faithfully obey all the rules. It’s not even offered only to those who have been life-long believers, or who give great amounts of tithe and offerings.

I Remembered Some...

No, the word is definitely, “whoever.” Whoever believes in Him. Lucado says that this single word is “God’s wonderful word of welcome” to all of us. Tonight I remembered some of the “whoevers” I’ve met through my years of ministry:

The young and frightened teenage girl who sneaked away and had an abortion. She’s a “whoever.”

The college boy who invited underage kids to his house for a drinking party. He’s a “whoever” too.

The man who made promises to employees that he knew he couldn’t keep, and then later fired them all, leaving families in financial distress.Yep. He’s a “whoever.”

The church leader who shocked everyone by having an affair. Members may still gossip, but he’s a “whoever.”

The woman who at one time had chosen prostitution as her career. Even she, is a “whoever.”

And then there are those other two “whoevers.” There is you. And there is me.

Max Lucado so beautifully invites all his readers to say “yes” to God’s invitation to not perish but have eternal life when he writes:

“No status too low.
No hour too late.
No place too far.
However. Whenever. Wherever.
Whoever includes you…forever.”

I have always known that God loves and forgives everyone who comes to Him. But now that I’ve focused on the word “whoever” I can’t help but stand in awe of such love.

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By Nancy Canwell. Copyright © 2009 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.
Scripture taken from the NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®.

1 Lucado, Max. 3:16: The Numbers of Hope. Thomas Nelson, 2007.

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