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Does God love everyone the same? When we ask this question, we’re usually thinking about a lot more than just God’s love. We want to know if God has favorites. We want to know why He is blessing some souls more than He’s blessing us. We want to know if we have a shot at making it into His holy in-crowd or if we were born rejects. We want to know if we can lose His love by behaving badly. In this post, we’ll address each of these concerns and we’ll also look at the most important question of all: How much should it matter to YOU how God loves other people?
WHY HE STARTS LOVING US
From the very moment that God decides to make us, He loves us. This love is not based on our behavior, it’s based on His decision to love what His hands have made. God doesn’t make things that He doesn’t like. We were each designed to be appealing and attractive to Him.
Now God is obsessed with variety. He delights in differences. Is He attracted to you for the same reasons He is attracted to someone else? No. You can think flute music and piano music are both fantastic, but you’re going to like them for very different reasons. So also, God likes His shy souls because they are shy and He likes His bold souls because they are bold. He likes weak and He likes strong. He likes cautious and He likes courageous. He likes short and He likes tall. He likes thin and He likes fat. He likes dark and He likes light. He likes curly and He likes straight. This hang-up we have of constantly trying to rank each other in God’s eyes is a total waste of time. God loves you and He also loves your neighbor. He loves both of you for different reasons. The fact that He loves two of you doesn’t mean He must love one of you more than the other. Even we humans aren’t limited like this: we can and do love multiple things with the same intensity. Why do we try to insist that God has to see us all in terms of better and best? Because we are insecure in our own relationships with Him. If you want to stop feeling jealous of how God loves other souls, the key is to stop looking around and stay focused on how God loves YOU. The more you understand how special YOU are to Him, the more satisfied you will feel. A man who is well-fed doesn’t envy a hungry man for having a plate of food. Instead, he’s glad to see the hungry man get food and he shares in the joy that the hungry man feels as he eats. So also, the more satisfied you feel in God’s love for you, the less threatened you’re going to feel about His relationship with other people. Whether He thinks other people are fantastic or annoying, it simply won’t affect you because you will have everything that you need.
LOVE VS. LIKE
Loving someone and liking them are two different things. A father might deeply love his son, but if the son is a rebellious, rude, insulting twerp, then the father does not enjoy his company. When the son willfully disobeys his father, the father will become angry and discipline the son, but his love for his son will still be there. We are in a similar situation with God. God loves us because we are the work of His hands. He is attracted to us because He designed us to be attractive in His sight. But if we start treating Him like dirt, God will become quite annoyed and angry with us. It is a major misconception among Christians that God always likes them no matter how they treat Him. This is hogwash. God isn’t a doormat and the cross didn’t neutralize His feelings about sin. When you intentionally treat God with disdain, He gets ticked. But don’t miss the word intentionally, for this is extremely important.
If a toddler tries to throw a ball and accidentally hits his father in the face, the father will not get upset because he knows the child didn’t mean to hurt him. The child will be upset when he sees his father get hit, but the father will assure him all is well. This is how God responds to you when you go through life being rude and irreverent because it is in your nature to do so yet you are not trying to hurt God. When God points out to you something you did that is offensive to Him, if you care about God, you will rush to apologize and you will feel bad about your blunder. Yet God will reassure you that all is well, and He’ll urge you to move on and not dwell on the past.
But now let’s suppose a toddler picks up a ball and intentionally hurls it at his father’s face. This is an entirely different scenario. The toddler hasn’t struck his father out of toddler bumbling, he was intentionally trying to do damage. Recognizing his child’s malicious intent, the father becomes angry and demands that the child apologize. He does not let the child move past his action until an apology is given and he will start inflicting pain on the child if an apology doesn’t come quickly. In the same way, when you willfully spit in God’s face and intentionally ignore the conviction of the Holy Spirit, God is going to be ticked. He is going to convict you about what you did and He will keep harping on it until you own what you did and repent. It’s only after you repent that God will then say all is well between you and move on from the past. But as long as you’re being a stubborn little brat, He will be stubborn as well and refuse to pretend that your defiance is alright.
THE LIMITS OF THE CROSS
Many Christians mistakenly view the cross as some guarantee that God will now like us forevermore. Yet when Jesus atoned for our sins, He simply arranged things so that we wouldn’t end up in Hell. He didn’t make it so that God no longer cares about how we treat Him. It’s very important to understand this distinction. Suppose God told you that if you pick a book up off a table, He will never forgive you and you will go to Hell. When Jesus atoned for your sins, it was like He glued that book down to the table. You come along and try to pick the book up but it won’t budge. Thanks to Jesus, you are unable to commit the one act that God has said He will never forgive. But in the meantime, everyone can see you are trying to commit the unpardonable sin and this angers God. It angers Him because you are intentionally doing what He told you not to do. This is the same as the toddler who purposely chucks the ball at his father’s head. The longer you stand there pulling and tugging at that book, the angrier God will become until He suddenly comes down on you with a harsh spanking. God does not like it when His children defy Him. Being saved does not mean that God no longer cares about how you treat Him. On the contrary, God cares very much about how you are responding to His conviction. What He doesn’t care about is you being perfect. He does demand perfection in order for you to not go to Hell, but that’s what Jesus did for you: He was perfect so you wouldn’t have to be. Now God expects you to be imperfect and constantly blundering, yet in the midst of all that, He demands that you respect and obey Him. As long as you keep refusing to do these things, you are not going to be inspiring a smile on God’s face.
There is no need to feel threatened by the idea of God being angry with Christians because with a simple act of repentance, everything can be swiftly set back to rights. It comes down to this: if God is ticked at you, it’s your own fault and you have no right to whine about it. Again, we must remember that the only time God gets angry with you is when you are willfully defying Him—when you’re purposely chucking that ball at His face. All the sinning you do in spite of your desire to please God does not create problems between you and Him because when He points things out to you, you are sorry and you genuinely care about God’s feelings. Both you and God know if you are serious about pleasing Him or not. This is not rocket science, so there’s no need to treat God’s anger like some complicated subject. It’s really not complicated at all. Are you being a brat on purpose? Are you enjoying spitting in God’s face? Are you intentionally trying to ignore the Holy Spirit’s convictions? If so, you’re being a little jerk. Does God enjoy His kids when they are treating Him like this? Of course not. Does He still love them? Yes, He does. Is God going to become so furious with certain Christians that He will disown them when they die and throw them into Hell? No, He won’t. This is what the cross is protecting you from: it puts limits on the degree to which God will punish you for your sins. He will never cast you into Hell. But He won’t just be some doormat, either. How you treat God today affects your future relationship with Him. If you’re treating Him like garbage on earth, you will be reaping the negative consequences of your actions in Heaven. But if you change your ways and start treating Him right, then you will experience positive consequences in Heaven. It matters how you treat God. Do not view this first life as your chance to play around and think Heaven is going to even everything out. It won’t. Those who sincerely seek God on earth are going to be in a much better place with Him in eternity than those who intentionally defied Him (see Will all Christians be equal in Heaven?).
IS GOD’S LOVE UNCONDITIONAL?
You will hear it said a lot in the Church that God’s love is unconditional. This is a very bizarre statement for Christians to make because the Bible teaches just the opposite. From Genesis to Revelation, God emphasizes just how conditional His love is. If we refuse to ever submit to Jesus as our Lord and Savior, then God will stop loving us altogether and delight in torturing us in Hell. So no, God’s love is not unconditional. But it is also not like human love which gives to get. God doesn’t love you because He needs you to love Him back. God doesn’t need anything from you. He loves you because He wants to, not because He can’t live without you. But being respected is more important to God than loving people, so in the end, no one will keep His love unless they meet His minimum requirements for respect. Under the current Covenant, that means reverentially submitting to Jesus as your Lord and Savior.
When we talk about God’s unconditional love, what we’re really doing is marveling at how patient He is with our sinful behavior. If a human friend treated you as poorly as many Christians treat God, you would cut them off and want nothing more to do with them. Yet once God adopts us as His children, He never stops loving us. But as we’ve already discussed, just because God loves us doesn’t mean He likes or enjoys us. That said, it is extremely simple to become a soul who God finds continuous pleasure in. By submitting to God in our hearts and asking Him to have His total way with us for all of eternity, we become extremely pleasing in His sight. It’s really up to you: how serious are you going to be about pursuing God? Are you going to sit around surrendering only the next 24 hours into His hands or are you going to throw your entire existence into His hands and stop holding back.
DOES GOD HAVE FAVORITES?
Of course God has favorites. To pretend otherwise is silliness. Just by reading through the Bible, we find glaring evidence of favoritism. Moses, Samuel, and David were all favorites. Daniel was a favorite. Job was a favorite. Abraham was a favorite. Enoch and Elijah were favorites. What about you? Are you one of God’s favorites? It depends on how you are responding to Him in your heart. God’s favorite people are those who care more about pleasing Him than anything else. Because they care so much, they have surrendered themselves into His hands and pleaded for Him to have His total way in their lives. These souls want to be sources of joy to God. They care very much about pleasing Him. They are deeply distressed at the thought of not pleasing Him. God can ask these people to do absolutely anything and they would want to obey Him in their hearts, even if what He was asking for felt impossible. This is what is happening on the inside of God’s favorites. But how do these people look on the outside? They look like normal people. They come in all walks of life. Some are rich, some are poor. Some are involved in ministry, some are not. Some are extroverted, some are wallflowers. In the Church we cling to many false assumptions about what God’s favorites look like. We think these glory hounds with the mega-ministries who are rolling in material blessings must be God’s favorites. We think anyone who is abundantly successful on earth must be a favorite. We think someone who is always preaching at everyone else must be a devoted Christian. Yet all of our attempts to assess spiritual status by examining external behavior are a waste of time. God pours down blessings for many reasons. Blessings are often a form of Divine discipline, so just measuring a man’s wealth is hardly a reliable system. Solomon was one of the wealthiest men of his time, yet by the end of his life he thoroughly disgusted God. Job was rolling in wealth, and God was extremely pleased with him. Elisha was dirt poor and God was delighted with him. Elisha’s servant Gehazi was also dirt poor and God cursed him. God performed miracles through Elijah and was delighted with Him. God also performed miracles through Samson yet He was disgusted with him. You simply can’t stand on the outside of a man and assess how God feels about him. And spending a bunch of time trying to figure out how God feels about someone else is a total waste of time. The only thing that matters in your walk with God is how God feels about YOU—and this is very easy to assess.
YOU & GOD
As a Christian, this is what you can know for sure: God will always love you, and He will never throw you into Hell. This is wonderful, but don’t be content to settle here. You need to go on to becoming someone who God thoroughly enjoys—someone who He delights in being with. You want to become one of God’s favorites. This is very easy to do, for it doesn’t require perfect behavior or a bunch of spiritual gifts or some brilliant understanding of the Bible. God wants your heart. He wants you to want to want Him with all that you are. No, that’s not a typo: God wants you to want to want Him. This is the best you can do as a fallen human being. You can’t want God on your own. You can’t manufacture a deep love for Him on your own. Love for God and even the desire to love God are gifts which He must give you. So this is where you start: wherever you’re at today, ask God to help you love Him more. Ask Him to make pleasing Him the most important thing to you. Ask Him to flood your soul with an all-consuming desire to love, honor, and cherish Him. Ask Him to make you everything that He wants you to be. These are simple prayers—anyone can pray. You don’t have to be physically fit or have money or have a bunch of friends and connections in order to say these things to God in the privacy of your own soul. But if you do pray like this and you mean what you say, well then you will become one of God’s favorite few. Yes, God most certainly does have an in-crowd, but it is not an exclusive club. The door is open wide to you and you’re welcome to come in and join that sacred circle of God’s best friends. God’s favorites are the souls who want Him to be pleased first and foremost. So the question now becomes: if you’re not one of God’s favorites, why are you holding back?