The wonderful love of God is probably the most talked about and celebrated thing in Christian culture. We sing songs about it, we use it as the focal point of most sermons, we put it on t-shirts, and we talk about it while handing out food bags to the less fortunate. We seem very enthused with this fact that God loves us enough to forgive us our sins and take us to heaven (and rightly so). Most Christians believe that God is infinitely loving, and that His love is available to all to have, if they so "choose" to believe in Christ (John 3:16). Most Christians believe that God "is" love, as stated in 1 John 4:8. That God is the very definition of it and the ultimate example of what love should be for us humans.
But most Christians also believe (though talk about it substantially less), that God eventually just...gives up on us. That if we dont accept Jesus as Lord by the time we die, that God will release His grip on love and let us fall into an everlasting abyss of suffering. He spends our whole life trying to get us to accept His love, to demonstrate it through the lives of us Christians, but because of some strange "mystery of life"...most of humanity just doesn't want such perfect love. Even so, it never stops us from calling such a temporary love the "Good News" of the gospel...or as Id like to call it more appropriately, the "not so good news" gospel. We say many times in evangelizing,
God loves you unconditionally!
While at the back of our minds thinking,
Well, sort of...
Because the fact of the matter is, if the person you're evangelizing to doesn't accept Jesus before he dies, God will revoke all love and hope to that individual and leave them in Hell for all eternity (according to mainstream theology anyway).
And while most of us aren't bursting for joy about the darker side of the gospel, we accept it and kind of shove it to the closet of our minds. We casually cruise past it in the majority of our sermons, and focus on the more "happy" side of it... that WE Christians can be sure that God loves us, because we turned our hearts to Him and are following Him! And though I passively accepted this view of Gods love for many years, I eventually found it in bitter conflict with the very nature and character of God. And after many months of staring it square in the face, I eventually saw it completely contradictory to the very nature of love, as given to us by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:4-13...
4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away[...]
13And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
- God is patient, God is kind.
- God keeps no record of wrongs.
- God always perseveres.
- God never fails.
- God is only patient until you die, God is only kind if you obtain the right set of beliefs about Him.
- God is keeping a record of your wrongs and once you die you're going to suffer eternally for them.
- God will not always persevere, and eventually will give up on you.
- God will eventually fail to save humanity, and only end up with a small portion of it.
Most Christians view God as a kind, well dressed man who passes by a restaurant everyday before going to work. In this restaurant is a beautiful waitress that he used to date in high school, but after some tough times, called off the relationship. Even so, he decided years later that he forgives her and still wants her as his wife someday. So once in awhile he may pop in the restaurant for some coffee and smiles at her from afar. Once in awhile he leaves notes for her telling her that he misses her and asking her out on a date, and every time she kindly declines. And after awhile of the same tired routine, the man finally gives up on the woman and without a goodbye...never again returns to the restaurant. And though frustrated that his love was never again returned, hes just happy that he has a lock of her hair to remember her by (as if it makes up for not having her in his life).
But this is saying that our perfect God who IS love, has a love for us that is just as petty and conditional as typical human love. This is saying that because our love ends at death, so must God's. This is saying that because we Christians can be satisfied with just us being saved, that God will also be satisfied. This is saying that God is really not much different than any other human with temporary goals, hopes and emotions. This is...quite frankly...stupid. Especially in light of the parable Jesus gives us in Luke 15:4-6
4"Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6and goes home.
This parable has always been so heart-warming to me, especially now that I believe God not only wants to save all, but will do so. It speaks of a love that will not give up until each one of us are found and returned back to Him. That one sheep...one soul...is just as valuable to the Good Shepard as the other ninety-nine are. But yet, the mainstream insists that God will only rescue a few sheep from the clutches of sin...and will eventually stop looking for the majority. That God, in all His mercies and forgiveness and wisdom, and unsurprising, all abundant love...somehow didn't plan for our fallen state and will eventually leave us to it in eternal horror. How can we call that the unfailing, perfect example of love?
It breaks my heart so much that this is our majority view. That we cling so violently to such a doctrine, that most certainly does not line up with love as shown in the Bible. That in all our legalistic doctrines and traditional interpretations, we have unjustly put God's love on the same level of imperfection and failure as human love. So its no wonder that many people "reject" the gospel when we say that God's love sometimes fails indeed (in fact it does most of the time according to mainstream theology). But I believe God's love is so much greater than human love, so much more unending. God's love is so much more grand for every human soul than we can possibly ever grasp at...and yet the majority of humanity is blind, deaf and completely dumb to that fact. Do you think God is going to give up though? Do you think He will magically stop loving us just because we dont always get things right? Do you think He is surprised by any of our sins, even the one of unbelief? Do you think Jesus died only so that a few would be forgiven and reconciled to God? Do you really think He's going to let Satan overcome and win most souls in spite of Gods patient, and unfailing love for them?
I really don't think so. Call me a heretic for believing my God is that big, but it will not change the truth of God or the true gospel of Jesus. Nor will it change Gods heart towards humanity, even through judgment and its purposes. And I dont believe we can accurately preach to a "dying world" if we believe God's love and patience for them to be just as short as our human lives are.
I encourage you to read over these passages in your own time with God, and really ask yourself, Can God's love possibly be as amazing and unrelenting as the Bible says? Ask yourself,
If God is powerful enough and willing enough, can He also be loving enough to bring all to salvation in Him?
My prayer is that in time, you will see that yes...God's love is that amazing, and that unrelenting. And yes, God is that loving...to the fullness of every characteristic of love.