In my last blog, I stated that God loves everyone, unconditionally and that love is the very nature of God. I believe that with all of my heart, but it is good to be challenged now and again. After publishing last week’s blog, a long-term friend came round to see us. She had just read a book about God and natural disasters and was disturbed by what she had read.
Accepting the challenge, I downloaded the book to my kindle and read it all in a day. The book was written by a well-known bible scholar. (I will not mention his name because I don’t want to attack him publicly.) The book addressed the age-old problem of “If God is a God of love, why does he allow natural disasters”.
One author/theologian’s view
According to the author, this is not a problem for atheists or agnostics. It is not a problem if you think that God is not always good, or is limited in power. It can be a problem if you believe that he is both loving to all mankind, and he is all-powerful and intervenes in his dealings with men.
His conclusion is that God is indeed all-powerful but that he only loves some people; namely Christians and Jews! He bases his conclusion on (mostly Old Testament) Bible verses which talk about hate, and which imply that God hates those who rebel against Him. (For example: “The arrogant cannot stand in your presence. You hate all who do wrong” – Psalm 5:5)
Reading that book has not shaken my belief that God loves every man and women, but it has certainly made me think more about it. He loves us so much, he must be effected by any actions which make us less than we ought to be, but I will leave the word, “hate” to be argued about by theologians. What is plain, however, is God’s equal love for everybody.
If you google “Does God love everyone”, you get a whole mixture of views – some not very helpful at all. It never ceases to amaze me how some people, supposedly ‘Christian’, like to over-emphasise the way God abhors evil and hates those who rebel against him. In the worst case they demand that to be godly we must hate homosexuals and abortion technicians (though not necessarily tax-dodgers and exploiters of the poor).
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (john 3:16 NIV)
He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2 NIV)
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8 NIV)
Jesus shows us how
The problem is that so many are stuck on an Old Testament view of God. Jesus came to show us what God is really like. Jesus said:
“If you had known me, you would have known my Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.”
Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.”
Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father ‘?” (John 14:8 NIV)
Jesus tells us to love our neighbour and even our enemies. We will then be like our Father in heaven who loves the good and the bad equally. People who make themselves enemies of God are still loved by him. Surely God would not expect more of us than he demonstrates as his nature. God must love those who rebel against him, or Jesus is telling us that we must be better than God!
You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’
But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?
And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?
Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48 NIV)
Parents show us something of God’s love
Those of us who are parents have learned much about unconditional love, and this helps us understand what it means for God to love.
- If a toddler reaches out to the fire, do we punish him or do we teach him that fire burns and destroys?
- Do we force our morality or religion on our children, or do we give them the freedom to choose their own path to life?
- If a teenager says to us in an angry moment, “I hate you!”, do we say “I hate you too!”, or do we keep loving them through their difficult years?
- If a daughter or a son of ours goes thoroughly ‘off the rails’, do we disown them, or do we keep loving them and seek reconciliation?
Sadly, as parents we are not perfect, but our unconditional love for our children points towards a heavenly Father who is perfect and unwavering in his love for the human race, which he has brought into the world.
So, where does all this leave us. You cannot shake me from the belief that God loves everybody. Why then do natural disasters take place, and why doesn’t an all-powerful God stop them? I have my theories, and I have read other people’s theories, but the honest truth is that I simply do not know.
What about heaven, hell and judgement? We can pontificate all we like. We can try to speak on God’s behalf. We can judge others and even try to judge God himself. But I am convinced that God’s love is without limit and somehow or other; in the end love wins.