“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” (John 3:16)

Imagine a holy card that pic­tures God the Father—blazing with wrath—poised to blast this sinful world to oblivion. And next to him, straining to hold back the aveng­ing arm, God the Son, whose heart burns with love for fallen humanity.

Hopefully, you’re not carrying such an image in your prayer book! But are you carrying some version of it in your head? Do you some­times see the Father as severe and condemning, in contrast to Jesus? Or perhaps you take a “good cop/ bad cop” approach to the Bible— almost as if it presents two different divinities: a severe “God of justice” in the Old Testament and a “God of mercy” in the New.

If any of this feels familiar, today’s verse is especially for you. Very clearly, it proclaims that Father and Son are united in their love for the human race, completely one in their plan of salvation. It’s the basic mes­sage of John’s whole Gospel: Jesus comes from the Father, is one with him, reveals him, and does nothing apart from him. As he himself says to Philip and to us: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

To modify a common saying, what you see (in Jesus) is what you get (in the Father)! There is no devious God with a hidden agenda to make you suffer; there is no malicious “police officer in the sky,” ready to punish you for the slightest slip. Yes, God is wrathful toward sin: Father and Son are united in their intention to destroy it! But to anyone in sin’s grasp, God offers a love so extrava­gant that no price is too great. You can trust this God with your whole life.

So now that you’ve conjured up that fictitious holy card image, put it away—for good! Instead, picture God looking at you with love, the way doting parents contemplate their newborn child. You are God’s beloved. And in all your joys and sor­rows, he is working out his plan to give you a future full of hope.

“Lord, thank you for your love. Help me to reject everything that keeps me from returning it. Help me to accept everything that will make my life a beautiful gift for you.”

Acts 5:17-26; Psalm 34:2-9