There's a buzzword today that's become so overused that it no longer bears any real significance. That word is "ICONIC".
An icon is an image that encapsulates a much deeper and greater truth than can be easily communicated through the written word. If something is iconic, therefore, it stand for something that no words can describe.
While the word has become trite, especially in its modern usage to describe any number of images you might click on your computer screen, there are some truly iconic things that stand the test of time, no matter how hackneyed the word becomes.
One such icon is John 3:16. You've seen it everywhere, especially at sporting events where people hold up banners and posters to get people to notice the one verse in Holy Scripture that gives us, what Martin Luther called "The Gospel in a Nutshell" - "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him may not perish, but have eternal life". There is real power and real promise in that one verse, and it is therefore an iconic representation of the fullness of God's grace.
Even with its iconic status, on its own John 3:16 can be misinterpreted without its adjacent companion, John 3:17, which says "Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him." Without John 3:17, the previous verse can be rendered as just another "sorting text" in the bible where only true believers receive the grace of God. But John 3:17, provides a bit more texture and depth to its more famous preceding verse. Not only does it draw us to God's grace in the person of Jesus Christ, but it clarifies God's intent that the entire world is loved and the entire world is to be saved. No part of the world is condemned, and God will not stop the love until all have been wrapped up into God's plan for eternal life.
Next time you read John 3:16, as a source of comfort in the promises of God, don't stop at the end of it. Go another verse further on, and see the abundance and the depth of what God's grace will accomplish. That is truly iconic.
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About this website
Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church (GA) in New York City has been chosen as one of eight internship congregations to participate this year in a church-wide initiative designed to increase our understanding of Holy Scripture and most importantly, to cultivate our engagement with it. In partnership with The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, Vicar John Heidgerd will be working to develop innovative ways to deepen our faith formation and sense of discipleship for the sake of ourselves and our communities.