An Essay by John Ambrose|
The Bible tells us that God loves us, will his love ever cease? Can we do anything that will make him stop loving us?
When we think of love what comes to mind? Do we think of the love for a child, a parent, a spouse, or a friend? Do we think of love of country, a job, or a hobby?
There are many aspects of love with each evoking different thoughts and feelings. But when we think of the love of God what comes to mind? Do we see him as a heavenly father who wants the best for his children? A benevolent God who protects us from evil, sickness and injury? Or do we see him as a God of wrath who judges us severely and punishes misbehavior?
Let's look at what the Bible teaches.
Initially Romans 9:13 comes to mind, "Just as it is written: 'Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.'" So we see straight away that God can both love and hate different people.
Let's examine the various aspects of love.
One definition from Merrian-Webster defines love as: "unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another".
In this respect we understand John 3:16 which shows God's fatherly concern for mankind, "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."
In another definition we see that love can be defined as "relating to a warm admiration".
In this sense we see Jesus looking upon the rich man after he stated that he had followed the commandments since his youth:
"Jesus looked at him and loved him." (Mark 10:21)
Love can also be defined in the sense of an "object of affection". We see this in John 11:5:
"Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus."
It can also be defined as "relating to an object of attachment":
"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commands and remain in his love." (John 15:9-10)
In this sense we see that we are not only attached in love but can become un-attached by not following his commands:
"I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned." (John 15:5-7)
Here we see the consequences of separating ourselves from his love. Yet his love for us remains in the sense of a loving father's concern and wanting the best for us - desiring that we turn back in repentance. We see this clearly in the parable of the Prodigal Son. (Luke 15:11-31)
"But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him."
"The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'"
"But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate."
Not only does the love of the Father want us to turn back, but he rejoices mightily if we do. This is steadfast love showing itself in the concern for the welfare of his children - a love that will never die despite how we may behave.
In Daniel we see all aspects of God's love. For Scripture states:
"As soon as you began to pray, a word went out, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed." (Dan 9:25)
"Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up, for I have now been sent to you."(Dan 10:11)
"Do not be afraid, you who are highly esteemed," (Dan 10:19)
Three times we see Daniel referred to as "highly esteemed".
Webster's defines esteem as "regard, respect, admiration; esteem implies greater warmth of feeling accompanying a high valuation".
Daniel was highly regarded, respected and admired by God; and this Scripture shows warmth and attachment as well as high valuation in his regard.
O how blessed we would feel to be highly esteemed by God, for we would see ourselves loved by God in all its aspects.
Now let us turn to the definitions of hate:
a : "intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury"
b : "extreme dislike or disgust, antipathy, loathing"
Does God ever feel disgusted with a person such that he loathes the person they have become? I think so. In this sense we can understand the statement regarding Esau, "God loved Jacob but hated Esau". For Esau became a person loathed by God for he cared little about his birth right and the things of God, while Jacob yearned for and sought after both.
Though a person be disgusted even loathed by God yet he remains in his love in the sense that God's still desires the best for him - wanting him to turn back and do the right thing; to come to him in repentance and humility.
We see an example of this in the story of Cain and Abel. For though God was displeased with Cain and his sacrifice he told him, "if you do what is right will you not be accepted..."(Gen 4:7) Cain could make things right by doing right before God, instead he choose to murder his brother and thus incurred punishment.
So we see in the Bible that God continues to love us even when we walk in disobedience; even as we may continue one step at a time on our fiery path to hell. But just because God loves us and will always love us does not give us a carte blanche ticket to heaven as many Christians believe. God loves us but he will not usurp our free will. And "If we disown him, he will also disown us." (2 Tim 2:12)
Unfortunately many Christians latch onto the idea that God loves them and therefore presume he will bring them into his kingdom despite anything they may say or do and anyway they may choose to live. But Scripture teaches otherwise.
"The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God." (Gal 5:19-21)
Preachers who preach only the love of God and do not explain the ramifications of disobedience are doing the work of the enemy for they preach a message that "tickles the ear" and people on their way to destruction will receive it with joy.
"For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear." (2Tim 4:3)
In conclusion, in answer to the question "Is God's love forever?" I would say yes, in the sense that he always wants the best for us. But he does not usurp our free will. If we choose a path that leads to destruction he will not force us to return. He woos us back continually with circumstances and convictions of the Holy Spirit, but does not usurp our free will. But like the father in the parable of the Prodigal Son, if we turn back to him he will run to us with open arms, and rejoice in our return.
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