For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world that He might judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. (John 3:16-17, HCSB)
I chose the Holman CSB to quote this familiar passage because it captures the sense better than other versions. It isn't "God sooo loved he world," but rather "this is how God loved the world...". I think Romans 5:8 is a similar idea - pointing to God's specific actions as evidence of how much He loves us.
But it is the next part that really threw me for a loop. Jesus didn't come to condemn the world, but to save it, right? Over the years, I've heard folks use this as justification for all sorts of things, up to even universal salvation.
But it's obvious why Jesus didn't come to condemn...he didn't have to; man was condemned already. After the Fall, man's position became hopeless. That's a hard thing for many people to accept, but the Bible makes it clear from a number of passages that this is the case. For our purposes here, though, we can simply look at the context--the very next verse.
Anyone who believes in Him is not judged, but anyone who does not believe is already judged, because he has not believed in the name of the One and Only Son of God.
Already judged! That's why Jesus didn't need to bring a message of judgment. In fact, this amplifies John 3:16, because the only reason the world would need a savior in the first place was if it was in a position where it needed saving.
A final thought. The next time you talk to that unsaved friend or loved one, remember that they are "already judged." That is quite sobering when it comes to evangelism.
Scripture quotations marked HCSB are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.