Part one of this discussion quoted a tweet from Steve, a famous Christian artist who is now also a pastor in Florida. In response to my question whether God loves everyone, this brother in Christ responded that God does not saying, "His love, as is His grace, is salvific & not common."
The first half wrapped up noting those who think like that musician do have a scriptural basis for what they teach, whether it is Psalm 5:5 saying (of God) "you hate all evildoers,"1 Psalm 11:5 noting our Lord’s "soul hates the wicked," or (perhaps most famously) Paul quoting the Old Testament to remind his readers of God’s statement, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated" (Romans 9:13; see also Malachi 1:2-3). We were left wondering if our axiomatic assumption that God loves all people is wrong. Additionally, where should we start in order see if we should agree with that godly Floridian—or instead have the confidence of the toddler from northwest Arkansas that is expressed in this other tweet from my friend, Daniel?:
And I would recommend the song "Jesus loves me" as sung my 2 year old daughter.
There’s not a doubt in her mind that it is true.
To answer our questions, as usual we should start with the first word in the title of that tune: Jesus. We know that if we have seen Him we have seen the Father (John 14:9) and that part of the work that Christ completed on this earth was manifesting Him (John 17:6). As the writer of Hebrews so aptly put it, Jesus "is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature" (Hebrews 1:3a).
As we fix our eyes upon Jesus, we should keep in mind a rule of interpretation: Generally the natural reading of a passage is the correct one. Don’t get me wrong; we do have to "bridge the gap" when it comes to cultural and historical differences between biblical times and ours so we can understand what the author meant (and what his readers understood). However, once we’ve crossed that span, we better have good reasons before deciding that something that walks like a duck and quacks like a duck is…a goose.
In a perfect world before you read the remainder of this article I would force you to read the Gospels…multiple times. So many times that you would feel like you were beside Jesus when He had compassion on crowds "because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd" (Matt 9:36; see also Mark 6:34) or just because they were hungry (Mark 8:2). I want you next to the loving Son of God when He likely wept over the city that was soon to crucify Him:
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! (Matthew 23:37)
"But Alan," someone like Steve might protest, "none of this proves that Jesus loves the lost…and how about when He uttered the words of condemnation like, ‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness’"? (Matthew 23:27-28)
First of all, as any parent knows who has yelled at a child to stop them from doing something immediately dangerous (for example, walking into traffic), sometimes the loving thing to do is to act harshly, even if it might be misunderstood (the Old Testament is littered with cases where our Lord took this chance). "Tough love" that points to heaven is far better than "enabling love" that paves the road to hell. I imagine some of prayers of the Pharisees who later followed Jesus included thanks for the verbal slap-aside-the-head that helped wake them up to their precarious state.
Second, if you go to Matthew 23:27 and read Jesus’ severe words, you’ll notice that His desire to gather them as a hen gathers her chicks is part of that "diatribe"—after telling them what their fate was going to be, He implicitly told them how it was opposite of His desire for them. This quote in Hosea comes to mind:
How can I give you up, O Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, O Israel?
How can I make you like Admah?
How can I treat you like Zeboiim?
My heart recoils within me;
my compassion grows warm and tender (Hosea 11:8).
Those are not the words of a God who hates His rebellious children…
Finally, returning to Jesus, even if you do avoid the natural reading of the Gospels and try to limit His love to just His followers, one thing that is abundantly clear (and I’m sure Steve would not disagree with) is that Jesus is not a hypocrite. Keeping that in mind, try to accuse Jesus…God…of hating the wicked after this:
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is 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. … You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:43-45, 48).
Our sinless Savior would not tell us to love our enemies and then hate His. Instead, He points to the Father whom He has manifested on earth, and uses Him as an example of how our love should be perfect.
This weekend Augie, with some modifications that a three year-old speech-delayed boy might make, sang "Jesus Loves Me" and "Jesus Loves the Little children" all by himself in the back of my Cube as we headed to pickup his big brother. We have a wise expression, "Out of the mouth of babes…"2
Listen to Augie. Listen to Daniel’s daughter.
Jesus loves you no matter what your present state or how vile your sins. No, that doesn’t mean you are going to make it to heaven—that is a whole other discussion…one that probably should start off by noting God "desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4, emphasis mine).
But isn’t that what you would expect out of a Father who loves you?
1 All Bible quotes are from the English Standard Version (ESV).
2 It is not surprising that our expression, "out of the mouth of babes," is wise since it comes from the King James Version’s translation of Psalm 8:2 and Matthew 21:16, the latter of which seems especially apropos to this article since it in part reads (in the ESV), "Yes; have you never read, "'Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise'?" Something else to consider as you decide whether to listen to Augie or Steve is Matthew 11:25: "At that time Jesus declared, 'I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children.'"