GOD LOVES US AND WANTS A RELATIONSHIP WITH US
The Bible says that God has a deep and tender feeling of affection and attachment for each of us, and he has an enduring concern for our individual well-being.
He’s not remote and unknowable as many people believe. On the contrary, he wants to have a personal relationship with each one of us.
The Bible says that God is love – not just that he has love, but that he is love. Said another way, the character of God is everything communicated to us by the wonderful and powerful word love.
Relational love must have an object and the object must have freedom to love or not love in return. To be meaningful and satisfying, love requires free will, even though this sometimes results in the pain of rejection (see Topic 6). God will tolerate a person’s rejection only for a while – this lifetime, which could be cut short at any moment – and then God won’t offer his love any more. Separation from God’s love is called hell (see Topics 50 and 51).
GOD’S LOVE DISTINGUISHES CHRISTIANITY FROM RELIGION
If God were only holy, sinful man couldn’t have a close personal relationship with him. But the Bible says that, besides being holy, God is also love.
The Greek manuscripts from which our English Bibles are translated use multiple words for ‘love’ which convey more precise meanings than our single word. The manuscripts use a word meaning sensual love (eros), another word meaning friendship love (philos), and another word meaning unmerited and caring love (agape). It’s the latter word that’s used to describe God’s love for man.
This agape kind of love means much more than warm feelings. It means thoroughly enjoying a deep and intimate relationship and giving unselfishly in practical ways to meet the needs of the loved one.
It’s at this point where Christianity is in sharp contrast to the religions of the world (see Topics 11-14):
- RELIGION is man reaching up to God... trying in vain to please him with rituals and good works, in fear.
- CHRISTIANITY is God reaching down to man... in the person of Jesus Christ, in love.
Christianity is usually referred to as a religion – and in the sociological sense it is – but essentially it’s a love relationship between God and man.
GOD’S LOVE IS UNIVERSAL AND UNCONDITIONAL
God loves everyone in the world personally and impartially. His love is superior love because it’s steady and rational, not changing by moods, senses or response. His love isn’t caused by anything in the people he loves. It flows from his own character.
Human love is often sacrificial and beneficial, but it rarely seeks the well-being of undeserving people.
We usually put conditions on our love, but God’s love is unconditional.
We often love because certain people are attractive to us, or respond well to us, but God loves because it’s his nature to love. No one is at a disadvantage with God because of birth or upbringing, because of appearance or inabilities, or because of past sins.
God loves even the worst sinner. It’s not necessary to clean up our life before experiencing, enjoying and benefiting from his love (see Topic 58).
If God is love, why does he allow suffering?
The human suffering we observe and experience is the result of evil (see Topic 47) and group punishment (see Topic 49). Given these two conditions, suffering on earth is inevitable. God allows it – temporarily – because, as explained in those Topics, he’s holy and just.
We think suffering here is bad – and certainly it is – but relative to what? Compare present suffering to the extremes: Suffering here is worse than heaven, but better than hell.
It’s probable that God, who sees the eternal perspective, isn’t as concerned about present suffering as we are. In fact, he may see suffering as helpful for our longterm good:
God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world. A bad man, happy, is a man without the least inkling that his actions do not ‘answer,’ that they are not in accord with the laws of the universe...
Until the evil man finds evil unmistakably present in his existence, in the form of pain, he is enclosed in illusion...
No doubt pain as God’s megaphone is a terrible instrument: it may lead to final and unrepented rebellion. But it gives the only opportunity the bad man can have for amendment. It removes the veil: it plants the flag of truth within the fortress of a rebel soul.
– C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain
Were it not for suffering – either our own or others we observe – we wouldn’t see the consequence of sin. We would think everything is fine, without God, and our indifference to him would subject us to infinitely longer and more severe suffering in eternity.
Suffering shows us sin. Hatred of sin turns us to God. God, in love, offers us an eternity without suffering.
Here's a sampling of what the Bible says on this subject.
I John 4:7-19
Love originates with God, God is love
God sent Jesus Christ because of his love for us
Jesus Christ died for us, demonstrating God’s love
God’s great love for us gives new life
I John 3:1-2
God loves us enough to adopt us into his family
God pours out his love through the Holy Spirit
Nothing can separate us from the love of God
Present suffering nothing compared to eternity
I Peter 4:10
Suffering only for a little while, then heaven
For help, see Topic 29.