This month, we are all reminded of love whether we celebrate Valentine’s Day or not. Though this holiday was meant to honor the martyrdom of two saints named Valentine, societies have made it into a day to celebrate love and romance. With love in mind, as Christians, we should be reminded of God’s love for us.
As John 3:16 says,“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (ESV). This verse we are all so familiar with is one that many Christians use when talking to non-believers about their faith. God’s love for people is oftentimes what Christians point to when telling the gospel message. But this can sometimes stir up questions about his love such as, “Does God love everyone equally?”, “If so, then why do bad things happen to good people?”, or “How could a so-called loving God send people to Hell?”
When trying to answer the question “Does God love everyone equally?”, we should note that though the answer is yes, there are different distinctions of God’s love. The first kind of love God has is his love for everyone. Verses like John 3:16 and Romans 5:8 which states, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” demonstrate this love. God has a reckless, providential love for both believers and non-believers (ESV).
Then, there is what is called the inter-trinitarian love where the Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Father. This is explained in John 3:35 and 5:20 which say, “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand…For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and the Father will show Him greater works than these, so that you will marvel” (NASB).
Next is the love God has for his elect people. This idea can be kind of tricky, but the main idea is that God has a special kind of love for his children.
Finally, there is a love where God loves his people when they obey him. John 14:21 paints a picture of this love as Jesus says, “Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them” (NLT). This kind of love can be thought of by looking at the way our parents love us. In one sense they will always love us no matter what we do; however, that does not mean that when we disobey them they will not punish us out of love.
As previously stated, questions about God’s love like “Why do bad things happen to good people?” and “How could a loving God send people to Hell?” can also be asked by both Christians and non-Christians.
Why do bad things happen to good people?
In order to answer the question, one must keep in mind that there is no such thing as good people. Everyone is capable of doing good works, but only God is good. Since Adam and Eve sinned, they completely changed the world because sin is everywhere, and humanity follows in their sinful footprints. If God eliminated all the evil in the world, then his gift of free will to humans would be obliterated. God definitely has the power to obliterate sin and evil, but if he did that, humans would be left with no option but to love God because we would not have any other option. Our free will would leave along with the evil, which is why God loves us enough to not do that. Now, our love for him can be authentic and deep because we do have another option but we have deliberately chosen to love him.
Furthermore, just because there is suffering in this world does not mean that God loves certain people more and others less. The pain and suffering people experience is a result of humanity’s fall and cannot be attributed to God’s lack of love.
How could a loving God send people to Hell?
The second question has to do with God’s character as well as humanity’s fall. Hell came to be a place of eternal punishment for Satan and the other fallen angels when they rebelled against God. Then, it became a place for humans to suffer as well after sin entered the world through Adam and Eve. As we know, people who go to Hell go there because they have not believed in Jesus’ death and resurrection for the forgiveness of their sins. God’s character enters this situation because even though he does love all people without exception, he also is just. Justice is a major part of God’s being, and he cannot justly send all people to heaven when they have not surrendered their lives and been redeemed. Allowing unredeemed people into Heaven would ultimately go against God’s character, and despite the love he has for them, he cannot go against his nature.
After all of this we are reminded of the vastness of God’s love and how incomprehensible it is for us as finite beings. It is easy to sometimes forget the depth of his love, but let’s try to take more time appreciating and reciprocating that love. We can write lists of what we are thankful for, study about his love in the Bible, or even practice the gifts God gave us. Also, activities such as saying thank you more often, helping others in small tasks, or intentionally going beyond your friend circle to talk to someone else can help you show love to others, which ultimately reflects God’s love.
Loving God and loving others are the golden rules of Christianity, and it is something we can do all year round, not just on Valentine’s Day.