In the 1980’s and ’90’s John 3:16 was the single best known Scripture verse in the Bible, at least among sports fans.

The fame of John 3:16 was attributable to Rollen Stewart who positioned himself at major sporting events so he would appear on television holding a placard announcing JOHN 3:16.

This strange practice had its origins at a Portland Trailblazer Basketball game in 1977. Rollen Stewart, wearing a huge rainbow colored wig was caught by the television camera as he jumped around in the crowd. His image was broadcast across America and Rollen was immediately bitten by the fame bug and dedicated himself to becoming a celebratory.

Rollen traveled to televised sporting events, and positioned himself to be seen by TV cameras and eventually became quite famous.

But fame did not satisfy. In a 1982 interview, he said: “I was living on my ranch…and my life revolved around sex and drugs. I wasn’t happy, though, and one night I had a religious experience and was born again as a Christian.” His conversion occurred after the 1980 Super Bowl in Pasadena while watching a television show called “Today In Bible Prophecy.” Rollen says, “I fell to my knees there in that room and allowed Jesus to take control of my life…”

After his conversion Stewart began appearing at sporting events for the Lord, flashing his JOHN 3:16 message.

In 1984, Rollen met and married Margaret Hockridge. They bought a Toyota van and hit the road, driving over 50,000 miles a year traveling to over a hundred sporting events.

The story becomes a little strange at this point.

According to his now ex-wife, at the 1986 World Series at Shea Stadium, Stewart tried to strangle her when she stood in the wrong spot with her JOHN 3:16 placard.

In 1990, he was arrested for disturbing the public at The American Music Awards in L.A. after trying to toss stink bombs into the audience. Rollen is reported to have said he wanted to show the public that “God thinks this stinks.”

His strange behavior came to a head in September ’92, when Rollen was arrested after holding a maid hostage in the Hyatt Hotel next to Los Angeles International Airport. On July 13, 1993, Rockin’ Rollen Stewart was found guilty of a variety of crimes and sentenced to three life terms in prison.

Clearly falling on your knees, allowing Jesus to take control of your life, and dedicating yourself to a life of service to God, is not a guarantee of sanity. In fact, it is possible to commit your life to Jesus, memorize the entire Bible, and still completely miss the point.

So what is the point?

The point of John 3:16 is that the nature of God is love. “God so loved” and that the nature of this love was revealed in the person of Jesus. There is a force at the centre of the universe that cares about all of us. There is a force at the heart of all existence that knows Rollen Stewart and, weird as he is, cherishes him. The universe is not a dark, uncaring, arbitrary hole characterized by chaos and tragedy. The heartbeat of the universe is love and this love is for “the world,” all the world.

Jesus came into the world to embody a love that extends to all of life. This love is the true nature of every human being. The purpose of human existence is to live in tune with this Spirit of love and follow wherever this love may lead.