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We humans feel an intense need to be able to logically explain why God loves us, and why He is so committed to caring for us. Why are we like this? Why can’t we just accept God’s love as a fact and enjoy it? Do you feel the need to understand why there are particles of oxygen in the air before you take a breath? Do you need to understand what is holding the molecules of your chair together before you’ll sit on it? There are many things in life that we don’t understand at all, yet we just happily accept them and go on. Why can’t God’s great love for us be one of those things? Life would be much simpler if we could simply accept God’s love for us without analyzing it to death, and some of us were able to do this when we were children. But when we grow into adults and get exposed to the complexities of life and acquire a deeper understanding of the complexities within ourselves, we find the confidence that we once had in God’s love starting to crumble. To shore up that confidence, we try to come up with logical sounding arguments for why a perfect, autonomous, all-powerful Being like God would be motivated to love frail, powerless, pompous, perverse little specks like us. We think and we think and we keep drawing a blank. God’s love for us just doesn’t make logical sense.
A need-based love is the only kind of love we humans understand. The complex combination of emotions that we refer to as “love” always includes an acute awareness that we would be in dire straights if the target of our affection should suddenly vanish from our lives. While we like to pretend that we are capable of a truly altruistic love, the reality is that we are always loving for self-serving reasons. This is because at bottom, we are self-serving creatures. Try listing off the things you love about your spouse, child, or friend, and you’ll find that many of the things you list are very beneficial to you. “I love how organized he is.” Yes, because you’re a disorganized mess and without him around, you’d be late to everything. “I love how kind she is.” Yes, because you’re constantly benefiting from that kindness and getting to enjoy a lot of sweetness that you know you don’t deserve. “I love how loyal he is.” Yes, because that means you don’t have to put as much effort into treating him well because you know he’s willing to eat a lot of your flak.
Human love is a bartering system and the only reason it works is because God has given us each a different set of strengths and insecurities. While we all have the same basic core needs, we prioritize those needs differently. Maybe Jane tends to steamroll over people with her bossiness, but at least she knows what she wants, while Mike often finds himself plagued with indecision. When these two get together, Jane really benefits from Mike’s compliant attitude and his ability to help her accomplish her goals. Meanwhile, Mike really enjoys the sense of focus Jane brings to his life, and the way she lightens his load in the decision making department. But should Mike stop being so cooperative with Jane’s ideas, she would get annoyed and dump him. If Jane should start pressuring Mike to take the lead in the planning department, he would feel exasperated and dump her. Human relationships only last as long as both parties are getting something out of it. Once one person starts feeling like all they do is give without receiving anything significant in return, it’s over.
So what about God? He’s the One who designed us to be so self-serving. Is our selfishness part of our God stamp? Yes, it is, for God is an extremely selfish Being and everything that He does has a Self-benefiting reason behind it (see The Gift of Ego). But unlike us, God isn’t plagued by needs which only external parties can satisfy. We humans have a desperate need to be liked by at least some of our fellow creatures. We need to have friends, we need emotional connection, we need mental stimulation and physical touch. We have a long list of needs that we can’t satisfy without the help of others. When other humans treat us badly, we try to find ways to live without them, but those ways never work out. Our imaginary friends just aren’t as satisfying as real ones. We try to drown out the needs of our souls by obsessing over material things, but when we come across a stranger who gives us his undivided attention, we suddenly realize how empty and unsatisfied we feel. We need relationships with other humans. We need a relationship with God even more, but does He need us? No, He doesn’t.
God wants us, but He doesn’t need us, and this makes us feel very insecure in our relationships with Him. After all, if we can’t identify some way that we’re enticing God to stay with us, what’s preventing Him from leaving us? The truth is that nothing is keeping God from leaving us. Because God doesn’t depend on us in anyway, He could uncreate us all at anytime and not be bothered in the slightest. We only exist because God is choosing for us to exist, and He is only choosing for us to exist because it pleases Him to do so. His pleasure isn’t based on the fact that He feels some desperate need to be with us. But at the same time, His lack of need doesn’t mean His love for us is some shallow, fickle thing.
How tenacious can love be if it is not based on need? Isn’t it our need to avoid some overwhelming sense of loss that motivates us to persevere in the midst of miserable relationships? Whenever you see humans hanging on in the face of some intense misery, it’s because they’ve found some prize within that misery that they’ve decided they cannot live without. Maybe he does smack her around, but at least he puts a roof over her head and provides for her material needs. Maybe she does nag him to death, but it’s better than being alone. Yet when we look at how God treats us, we don’t find this kind of doormat tolerance anywhere in the mix. To God, our lives on earth are a mere blip on the eternal timeline. That one little blip is all the time He gives us to submit to Him, and if we don’t rush to align with His demands, He hurls us into Hell (see The Illusion of God’s Long-Suffering Patience). God’s utter lack of dependency on us is clearly communicated by the high He gets off of eternally tormenting those who defy Him. If God needed us to like Him or worship Him, as some imply that He does, Hell would not exist.
In the Church, there’s a popular theory that “God is Love, and Love must have a target to focus on. That’s why God created us–because He needed creatures to love.” The same people who promote this theory try to say that God is only Love, and then they go on to paint ridiculous pictures of Jesus weeping over the thought of souls ending up in Hell. Well, no, if we read our Bibles, we’ll discover that Jesus doesn’t weep, He rejoices. Hell is not a bummer for our Gods, it’s a fabulously satisfying idea. So is Heaven. Our Creators thoroughly delight in both blessing and cursing us. The fact that They have arranged for the majority of the human creation to end up on the nasty side of eternity is a very intriguing mystery to ponder, and one which really underscores how much our Gods don’t feel compelled to bless us.
Now we didn’t have to know the specifics about Hell ahead of time, nor did we have to know that most of us will end up there. Our Gods could have just told us that defying Them would result in misery and left it at that. By choosing to give us more details, They have made it exceptionally clear that They are quite comfortable with treating us like Their hated enemies. Knowing this puts quite a different spin on Their choice to love us. We realize that They do not feel compelled to love us, nor do They feel at all lacking if They don’t. Yet within the context of this total freedom, we find Them voluntarily choosing not just to love us, but to love us to a degree that absolutely astounds us.
No human on earth comes anywhere close to caring about us as much us as our Gods do. No one focuses on us as intently as They do, no one takes such delight in arranging every nuance of our day. There is no one on the planet who you’d want to spend every waking minute with, yet our Gods boast of how They are always with us. And then there is this strange way in which They welcome each and every one of us with equal enthusiasm. The molester, the pastor, the Nazi, the missionary, the murderer, the doctor–when we come to Them on Their terms, They welcome us all with equal enthusiasm. It doesn’t matter what we’ve done or failed to do. It doesn’t matter how broken, guilt-ridden, or tormented we are. If we want to be accepted by Them, They make it so easy. No one is excluded. No one is cast out. No one is told that he doesn’t make the cut. Our Gods go trolling through the most depraved depths of the human race and eagerly snatch up every soul who will turn to Them. Then They go hunting among those of us who seem to have it all together and embrace us just as tightly. No one is overlooked, no one is ignored, no one fails to receive an invitation to come. What are we to make of these Creators who are currently sustaining zillions upon zillions of worlds and creatures, yet They put such importance on pursuing a personal relationship with each and every one of us? There’s no way to make logical sense out of love like this–there’s only realizing how nonsensical it is and deciding that you’re being a fool to keep resisting its great power. We desperately need to be loved by our Makers, and They offer us oceans of that love in return for sincere submission to Their Authority. Who can refuse such an offer?
The best earthly analogy we can come up with for justifying why our Gods love us so intently is that of a new mother being presented with the child she’s been eagerly anticipating for nine months. It’s a child she wanted, a child she chose to conceive, and a child whose development she has been eagerly witnessing for nearly a year. Then the moment comes when the doctor places the baby in her arms. What words can describe the love that fills the mother’s heart in that moment? If you were to ask her to explain why she feels so deeply bonded to this tiny, needy creature who she’s only just met in person, she would simply say, “Because he’s mine.” It is the same with us and our three glorious Lords. We all belong to Them. We were each conceived of by Them, created by Them, and brought to life by Their own free will. So when you ask Yahweh, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit to justify His love for you, His answer will be simple. “I love you because you are Mine.” As far as They are concerned, no further justification is needed.