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.
A Japanese pastor with whom I worked for many years graduated from a Buddhist university before becoming a Christian. He didn’t like it when people spoke ignorantly about Buddhism, for there are many varieties of thought within it. One thing I remember him saying was that the all-encompassing love of God is different from the compassion of Buddha.
Buddha taught that passionately held feelings, whether “good” or “bad”—hatred, greed, the desire to maintain self-identity, patriotism, even love—lead inevitably to suffering. But by meditating and rejecting such passions, he taught, we can achieve enlightenment. At the same time, Buddha took a vow that he would not enter Nirvana until the whole world achieved enlightenment. So he is called the Compassionate Buddha.
Indeed, the love of God led to suffering. The Suffering Servant of God, prophesied in Isaiah, did not reject suffering to maintain his serenity. When John 3:16 says that “God so loved the world,” it’s saying that God loved the world so much that he didn’t turn away from suffering—even the cursed suffering of the death of his Son on a cross—and neither did Jesus turn away, but died willingly—to save us. Have you experienced that love?
Teach us, O Lord, how to love you and to love others, as you have loved us. In your name we pray. Amen.
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