God’s love is a topic humanity has wrestled with for centuries. We see it well documented throughout scripture, the awe and wonder at the depth and breadth of God’s love. “Give thanks to the God of heaven, for His steadfast love endures forever” (Psalm 136:26).
Perhaps the more poignant question at the center is not whether God loves, but who. Does God, in fact, love everyone? What about people who vehemently reject Him? People who have committed heinous acts? Where is the line if one exists?
To understand and unpack this small but mighty question we need to dive into three central understandings. The origin of God’s love. The posture of God’s love. The scandal of God’s love.
The origin of God’s love
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:7-21). As well put by John, our knowledge of God’s love is as limited by our ability to choose or reject love. We choose love, but God does not—he simply is.
If God exists outside time, space and the reality we know—our mind’s struggle to comprehend what exactly God “is.” His character is described as many things, His voice is described as many things but his origin in singular—love. God is the essence of love itself there is no separating His capacity to love from His posture. As simple as it sounds, many of us miss this foundational truth. God doesn’t take on and off love like a garment. We often limit Him in this way as it reflects our broken relationship with love. In a fallen world, we are given the opportunity to choose love. From the garden to the crucifixion we see man time and time again act in love or hate. We must remind ourselves God doesn’t exist in this dichotomy, His only lens is love.
The posture of God’s love
To understand God’s love for humanity we need to observe His posture. In the garden God brings to life all aspects of creation saying “it is good.” Earth’s artful design are all marks of a loving Creator. His first children on earth Adam and Eve eventually lead to the entrance of sin into the world. This is where we first encounter a new dimension of God’s love. For choosing the tree of knowledge Adam and Eve are subsequently punished and banished from the garden. The consequences they and generations face can be depicted as a result of the loss of God’s love however it’s quite the opposite. God’s love is not schematic and syrupy, it’s redemptive and enduring. God’s heart is often described as pained to watch His creation rebel throughout Old Testament scripture—more evidence of His still loving heart.
The scandal of God’s love
God’s love takes on the ultimate character in the life of Jesus. His redemptive love for His children is fully expressed through Him and gives us the keys to understanding more about not only the breadth of God’s love but the depth. John 3:16 famously states: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”. According to Gospel Coalition’s Theology Ph.D. Jeff Robinson, “ ‘World’ in John refers more to badness than to bigness. . . God’s sending love is to be admired not because it’s extended to so big a thing as the world, but to so bad a thing; not to so many people, but to such wicked people.” This is where the scandal comes in. No matter how evil, vile and despicable the behavior God’s love remains.
God’s love is not schematic and syrupy, it’s redemptive and enduring.
Jesus’ sacrifice tells this exact story. The illustration is further emphasized at the culmination of Jesus trial. He sits opposite of Barrabas, a “notorious prisoner” a far cry from the blameless legacy Jesus left. The angry crowd chooses to crucify Jesus and set Barabas free, all reminiscent of the scandalous love we struggle to comprehend. When Jesus died on the cross, He didn’t just die for good Christians. He died for a notorious prisoner who’s punishment likely fit the crime. He died for the people who spat upon Him and those who curse Him today. He died for the world’s most despicable. It’s uncomfortable but it’s the reality of unconditional love. It’s offensive, it is scandalous.
On this final note, let’s grip that God’s love is absolute, ceaseless, unconditional and off limits to no one. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[a] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39.
His unconditional love, not to be confused with a “get out of jail free card” is a love that says “you’re never out of reach of me if you reach back”. We’re redeemable because of Him even when we cannot forgive ourselves. We all get access to his free, constant and unwavering gift of love if we’ll accept it and live for it.