A relationship with God is negatively impacted by certain beliefs about God assumed to be true. The Bible is a story to learn about God. Writers never intend a reader to parse a sentence without being mindful of the context and whole story. Chapters and verses were not a part of the biblical writings until after the 12th century. We are better off not reading the Bible if we assume interpretations are infallible and we can be positive of the writer’s thoughts 2000 years later. If an interpretation doesn’t make sense of a loving God, it is probably wrong.
John 3:16 says: “For God so love the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” This verse has been used to defend that the reason for the Cross was to satisfy the wrath of God. One could also argue that the reason for the Cross was to convey God’s love and desire to win us over because in the same breathe the writer says: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (Jn. 3:17). God‘s love is surely motivated to serve not be served.
John couldn’t mean by perish burning in a lake of fire. Jesus didn’t come to save us from burning forever after death for not believing in God. The traditional understanding of the word Hell is a myth. Jesus simply said life can lead down a path of destruction without God’s guidance. A loving God wouldn’t torture people forever for sins while on earth a few short years. The Greek translation of the word perish is “lost.” Jesus warned ignoring His message lead to a soul gone astray. Don’t love your neighbor like you want to be loved, don’t forgive you partner, seek to rule than serve, and in old age as you reflect back on your legacy expect overwhelming regrets.
John’s readers did not think of eternal life as we do today in terms of living in Heaven and avoiding Hell. John used life and eternal life interchangeably (i.e. 5:39 with 5:40, 6:53 with 6:54). John believed that eternal life began not in the future but here on earth when seeking good and shunning evil (Jn. 3:20). John 3:15 refers to eternal life as being in Christ, thus referring to a quality of live than future destiny. When Jesus was asked directly how to have eternal life He simply said to love God and love others as yourself (Lk.10:25-27). A self-centered life leads to a death without hope, whereas following God leads to a fulfilling life.
Taking a verse of the Bible and running with it can lead to false characterizations of God. Keep in mind John’s readers didn’t have the New Testament writings that we have today. People who lived during Jesus’ life had Jesus. Jesus when He left this world didn’t promise to leave an eventual Bible but His spirit (Jn. 14:17). Don’t go to the Bible looking for a set of rules to live by. Each situation is different. God desires a personal relationship with each and every one and will guide and inspire. A loving God can’t possibly encourage one to blow up people for simply having different personal beliefs. God allowed His Son to be crucified though innocent of charges to convince us of God’s unimaginable love and to inspire us to live a life worth living.