For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
It's not so hard for any Christian to believe that God loved the whole world enough to send his Son. Harder to believe is this:
"He died not for men, but for each man. If each man had been the only man made, He would have done no less.” - C.S. Lewis
The personal love of a personal God is a pleasant idea that most of us embrace superficially. But as beings of limited intellectual capacity and limited spiritual sight, it's difficult to internalize the fact that God is not only a Creator of all men, but a Father of one man or one woman-- your Father and my Father. It's a concept so enormous, that the love of the Maker of All Things centered into one little person on one little world in a vast universe, that it requires a great deal of conscious daily effort to keep one's arms around it, if we grasp it at all.
Granted, it is not inherently necessary to feel this way. Humanity could live and die only hoping it's true, and as long as obedience to commandments occurs, eternal salvation will occur, too. But what a lift in the journey to know that God is your Father, and God loves you. It's the difference between slogging through a swamp all of your days or forging ahead on dry ground.
But how do you wrap your brain around something like that? Maybe this will help.
The purpose of every living thing is to fulfill the measure of its being-- to achieve a full and healthy likeness of its parent organism, and through this achieved wholeness, expand that likeness by repeating the life cycle. This is the only full joy, the only true fulfillment of existence. All living things seek it, including mankind, the seed of the Father made in the image of the Father, whom the Father loves.
"What manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am" (3 Nep. 27:27). Fulfilling the measure of our divine parentage is a long process, infinitely longer than mortals can understand. And this life is only phase two, the mortal creation that occurs after our spiritual creation. We will live, die, and return to our Maker still virtual infants in this process of development.
But mortality will have served its purpose. We're here to choose. "Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life ... or to choose captivity and death" (2 Nep. 2:27). We know good from evil, we're born with the moral absolutes weaved into the fiber of our being. We're on earth either to embrace or reject these absolutes, either to further the measure of our divine creation, or to steadily deconstruct until divinity has no more place to dwell in us.
Now, consider this information when you wonder if your Father, the Creator of All, has the time or interest to love you, singularly and apart from all his other creations and all his other children. First, he delivered his most Beloved to be sacrificed for the redemption of all. Second, he placed all of his children at risk of not returning, to give each-- to give you-- the chance to be exalted.
In determining to send us to earth with personal agency, the Father accepted the sacrifice not only of His Son, but of a host of his own children whom he knew would choose not to return to him. He would accept the heartbreak of separation from some of his sons and daughters so that those who obeyed could grow into immortals through whom light and goodness could expand in the universe. The deepest sadness of all, no doubt, is that some of his children would so rebel against him that a "second death," outer darkness, the destruction of the very creation, would be necessary. It was no small sacrifice for a Father to make.
And yet he made it. Not only did God so love the entire world that he gave his uniquely divine Son, he loved each of us so much, as uniquely divine sons and daughters, that he was willing to risk the population of the entire world, from its beginning to its end, to give us a chance at eternal life. He loved you, and he loved me, enough to risk everyone.
Maybe you'll say to yourself, "What if I am part of the loss he risked?" No one is, not one. He will be there loving, imploring, inspiring, and fighting for all of us, each and every one, until we give up our last breath in mortality. No one is a counted loss, and he will have us all if he can. But he will not choose for us.
For God so loved the world that he gave us agency. God so loved the world that he was willing to risk the peril of all for the salvation of each. It was a massive sacrifice for him. And you were worth it.
If that seems a selfish perspective, remember that here in mortality, he expects each of us to see one another as that one who is worth fighting for. "Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (Matt. 22:37-39) He's not only counting on you to choose him, but he knows that choosing him creates in you an anxious desire to help the others-- the brothers and sisters whom you have loved since before you were born.
But that's another story. The first is this: God let all of his children go knowing some would not return, to give each of us a chance to reach the measure of our creation. Your Father loves you so much that he gave you to yourself at great personal risk of losing you and with the guarantee of losing many others (as is the inevitable consequence of free will.) He gave his One for all, but he also risked all for each-- for you and me, one by one.
What will you do with you now?
Art: Yongsung Kim