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Wednesday, April 14, 1999

John 3:16
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

I memorized this verse of the Bible before any other, when I was a very young child. So to get a new feel for it, today I looked at John 3:16 in seven different translations. Six are nearly identical, except the word "eternal" is sometimes written as "everlasting." The seventh was different:

"This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life." --The Message

Here are some quick definitions:

Eternal -- without interruption or end, unaffected by time.
Everlasting -- lasting forever, eternal.
Forever -- for everlasting time, eternal.

So we can only understand this word at all as something we haven't experienced, outside of our experience, outside of time. No wonder the newer translation/paraphrase by Eugene Peterson seeks something more:

Whole -- sound, healthy, restored, healed.
Lasting -- continuing for a long time.

Those words I can understand. I've felt healing and had both good and bad experiences which lasted a long time. And these words give me at least a fingertip grip on "eternal" and "everlasting."

Another take on "eternal": Patch Adams' credo, "Look beyond the problem to the solution!"

Beyond -- on the far side of, outside the limits. . .

This verse gives me permission to be restored, healed, sound, healthy. I can look beyond my problems, and the solution is clear and within reach. When I stretch up and out and beyond myself, Jesus waits for me to believe.

That's the tough part.

Believe -- to accept as true or real, to trust, to have confidence.

I'm glad I learned this verse as a kid. "Believing" comes naturally for kids. And I will allow myself to be "reborn" again today, to become a child again today, so that it will come naturally again.

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