Martin Luther declared that John 3:16 (For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life) is "the Gospel in a nutshell.” Luther, a highly opinionated man, had a lot to say in his life (he wrote hundreds of sermons, essays, commentaries, books and letters), but nevertheless for him, this one verse is the essence of the story. This is the Good News.
Personally, I don’t see why a nutshell only has to contain one verse. And so, with apologies to Martin Luther, I want to add the next verse as well: “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.” Because as much as I like the part about the Love, I also need the reminder that the Good News has nothing to do with condemnation and everything to do with God’s desire to redeem everything and everyone, no matter how messed up things (or we) are.
In John’s Gospel, the world doesn’t really know God, and the world rejects God, preferring secrecy and doing things in the dark to bringing the good to light. Sometimes things don’t seem to have changed that much in the nearly 2000 years since. There’s still a lot going on out there that looks like a rejection of God and God’s desires for the world. And there’s a part of me that wants God to come down pretty hard on this.
But instead, because of Love, God wants to save this crazy, broken world that I get so frustrated with. God sees hope and possibility where I see an irredeemable mess. And that, in a nutshell, is Good News.