Mark from Facebook was lamenting his church’s overly simple “Remember, God loves everyone” billboard. It is true in a sense, of course. As Marie noted there, Jesus loved the rich young ruler who walked away and He commanded us to love our enemies.
A former church of ours had the “God loves you unconditionally” message preached nearly every week and posted on a local billboard. While it was true in a particular sense, they never finished the sentence: “And He’ll unconditionally send you to Hell for eternity if you don’t repent and believe.”
My guess is that many people read the message on the billboard and thought, “That’s great — I don’t have to change a thing and don’t even have a reason to go to their church. I’ve heard all I need from the experts.”
Eternity is a mighty long time to hold bad theology. Another good Facebook find this morning was a link our pastor posted: My Take: Stop sugar-coating the Bible. That was surprisingly good for CNN. Too many people don’t realize that by editing the word they are making a god in their own image and not seeking the real God.
Do I like to share the truth of God’s love? Absolutely! But we must be careful not to distill it down so far that it loses its real meaning.
Remember that even the oft-misused John 3:16 notes that without believing in Jesus people will perish eternally, and the following verses make it even more clear.
16 “For God so loved the world,that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
7 thoughts on “God’s unconditional love. Sort of.”
As a helpful note, look up the word “so” sometime in verse 16. We typically see it as a quantity — “so much”. That’s not the intent of the word. It is a quality — “just so”. Rewording it to avoid confusion would go something like this: “God loved the world in this way…” I mentioned that at a Bible study once and got all sorts of protests. Then a Spanish-speaking member of the group said, “Hey, I disagreed too, and then I saw that my Spanish Bible says just that!” The verse describes the way in which God loves the world. He sent His Son for whoever would believe.
Thanks, Stan. That is an Important distinction.
Frankly, I’m not so sure the distinction is all that significant. I know Stan has referred to it before, and I appreciate that a distinction exists. But it seems to do little to change the meaning. That is to say, that though it might mean “in this way”, it still results in describing just “how much” He loved the world. In other words, He gave His only begotten Son, which
indeed shows just how much He loves the world, that He would do something so huge.
In order to avoid confusion, I need to be clear. God’s love that provides His Son so that those who believe is HUGE. Clarifying “so” to explain that it isn’t a quantity shouldn’t take away from the massive love God has. But the “in this way” concept points to … a particular way. What way? God “sent His only begotten Son so that whosoever believes will have eternal life.” Now, since it is “in this way”, what way? “Whosoever believes.” God sent His Son for “whosoever believes. What about those who don’t believe? “Whoever does not believe is condemned already” (John 3:18). That’s the “way”. Definitely NOT suggesting that His love is small.
As to the post, focusing only on the fact that God does indeed love us allows for all sorts of behaviors if it goes no further. This attitude manifests in several ways such as by those who would also say things like, “It’s all about grace.”
I think Elizabeth has an excellent take on the CNN “sugar-coating” thing: