Whatever Happened to the “John 3:16 Guy?”

john_316_031One of the most amazing things to me about God’s love is that the cause of his love for us is found solely in him, not us.  There is nothing about us and nothing we have done to make God love us.  He loves us because he has chosen to love us (Deut. 7:7-8; Eph. 1:4-5).  What an amazing thought that if we have done nothing to cause God to love us, then we can do nothing to cause God to stop loving us!

When we are confronted with such amazing love, how can we remain the same?  The fact that God loves us so much that he sacrificed his only Son for us is strong motivation for life-change.  As followers of Christ we bear the message of God’s love and must live it out in our lives.

A tragic example of someone who carried the message of God’s love, but failed to reflect it in his life was Rollen Stewart.  Most people don’t know his name, but they would recognize a photo of him.  Stewart was known as the “John 3:16 guy” who wore a rainbow wig and was seen in the background at sporting events during the late 70s and 80s with a sign that read John 3:16.  For a while he was almost a fixture on the screen during field goal attempts and behind home plate.  Sadly, Stewart believed God was telling him to spread the truth of John 3:16 in ways incompatible with the message.  He ignited some stink bombs at professional golf tournaments and blew an air horn in the middle of Jack Nicklaus’ backswing.

By 1992, Stewart believed the rapture was imminent. Despondent that no one would believe him, he took a maid hostage in a hotel at LAX and began shooting at airplanes taking off and landing from the airport.  He is currently in prison serving three consecutive life terms for his crimes.  Sadly, Stewart is an illustration of someone who held a powerful message of life-change, but failed to properly apply it to his own life.  He carried a sign, but didn’t live by what it said.

John 3:16 is the message of God’s love that seeks to transform who we are to be holy and loving like him.  We cannot inoculate ourselves with messages like John 3:16 if it becomes so familiar to us we forget the change it is meant to have on our lives.

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