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I have also entered into a debate on this with a friend.  It’s sad that some would say, God doesn’t love the lost, for the Bible teaches that God loves all of His creation…and especially man who was created in His image.  While man is no longer fully in His image, because we are born in the image of Adam (Genesis 5:3), man is still the crowning glory of all God’s creation (Psalm 8:5).  Plus, if lost people hear this said, it will hinder their understanding that our God is love and He desires all to be saved (2 Peter 3:9). Let us remember a very precious verse that clearly reveals God’s love for all mankind:

John 3:16  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

This verse tells that He “loved the world” enough to give His Son to live on this earth and to die for mankind.  Who is “the world?”  Throughout the Bible, “the world” is used to denote lost people.  It is the unregenerate sinner.  While we were yet sinners, God sent Jesus into this world to seek and save the lost. The gift of Jesus to the world clearly demonstrates God’s love for the lost.

People often use the verse from Romans 9:13 to support the idea that God does not love the lost:

Romans 9:13  As it is written [Malachi 1:3], Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.

How should we as 21st-century Christ-followers understand this verse?

In order to answer, we need to remember God’s nature and His character.  Hate, as we understand it to mean the opposite of love, and as it is used as the opposite of love in Romans 9:13, cannot mean that God did not love Esau enough to desire that Esau would follow Him.  Since Adam, all people have been born unregenerate (lost) and yet we are clearly told that God is “not willing that any should perishbut that all should come to repentance.”  (2 Peter 3:9)  Remember also that prior to Paul’s writing of this love/hate comparison between Jacob and Esau, he had already written of God’s love for the lost:

Romans 5:8  But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

The Bible supports God’s love for the lost, and while I believe this I also believe that God’s love for a lost person is different than His love for His children.  Just as we love children in our neighborhood or the children of our friends, we don’t love them in the same way that we love the children who are born or adopted into our family.  Applying this to God’s love we do need to be careful because the love of God is not the same as the love of man.  We are fallen creatures and God is perfect in all His attributes. There remains a mystery in our understanding of who God is and how He acts, and we must be comfortable in accepting that we will never fully understand many things until we enter into glory.

Unity with God

We are said to be children of God (Galatians 3:26), born of God (1 John 5:8), and adopted into His family (Ephesians 1:5).  Does that mean God has a greater love for His children?  I’m not sure that we can attribute “greater” to His love for His children because we cannot fully understand the love of God.  Because His love is different than human love, we can’t knowingly quantify it. 

Perhaps the best way to understand this is by saying His love is different for the lost than for His children because the love of God the Father for His children is a love rooted in unity.  We are united with God through Christ.  We are one in the body of Christ, united with Him and His Holy Spirit who indwells us.  That is a love of the Father in unity that the lost do not have (yet…we hope they will come to know and love Jesus).

While we can understand that the love of God for His children is different than the love He has for the rest of His creation, we must remember that it does not negate His love for the lost.

Perhaps the next time someone says that God does not love sinners (the lost), you can remind them that we are all sinners, and we were all unregenerate (lost) at one time.  Remind them of the love given to us when God gave Jesus for us:

Romans 5:8  But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Pure Love

God’s love is based on who He is, not who we are.  Love is not just an emotion God has, it is who He is (1 John 4:8, 16).  Therefore, to think that God does not love the lost is contrary to His nature and His Word.  His desire “that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9) is rooted in love.

If the “love/hate” verse about Jacob and Esau is used to support the idea of God not loving the lost, remind people that we must understand the unclear and confusing verses of the Bible in the light of verses that give clear teaching.  We can understand the love/hate terminology as a type of comparison, but not as a determination of God’s love given or withheld.

God’s Love Proclaimed

Jesus clearly proclaimed that He came to preach of God’s love when he said:

Luke 4:18-19  The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.

The mission that Jesus spoke of clearly revealed God’s compassion, mercy, and grace, given in love, for the lost.  Jesus clearly declared that He was sent to the lost…

Mark 2:17  When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick [the lost]: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners [the lost] to repentance.

Called to Repent

Jesus still calls sinners to repentance.  So the real question is not whether God loves the lost (He does) but rather, do we love the lost?  Do we love them enough to do what Christ commissioned us to do?  That is, do we love them enough to share the gospel of saving grace with them?  Do we love them enough to tell them how they can have a relationship with a God who loves them so much that He offered up His only begotten Son for them? And do we love them enough to desire that none perish, but all come to repentance and faith in Christ?

Oh, what a wonderful gift we have been given in our salvation.  Our salvation not only saves us from being lost it also transforms us into newness of life in Christ (Romans 6:4-5), which gives us the love of God so that we can love the lost.

The first mention of love in the New Testament is by Jesus.  His words clearly show that we are to love the lost, just as God does:

Matthew 5:43-45  “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

God loves everyone.  Go tell someone today of His amazing love in the gift of saving grace, freely given through Jesus Christ.

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