Carrying on from yesterday’s musings on unconditional love, I got a few opinions from other believers. One was very interesting. He also believes that God’s love is unconditional, but that the benefits of the love are received on conditions…sort of like a man who loves a woman and wants to propose. If she doesn’t love him back, she won’t get the ring, the wedding, the house and his devotion, even if he might still love her deeply!
That got me thinking! It’s quite a good analogy, except that it doesn’t explain hell – the punishment for not loving God back! If the man’s response to his beloved after her rejection of his love is to kill her or to sabotage her life in any way, can he really claim to have ever loved her? Doesn’t that make him sort of a psycho, so that she was right to reject him in the first place???
In trying to understand God’s unconditional love, I’ve tended to think that hell is a consequence, and God is merely warning us from falling into that pit… But someone laid the pit there. Jesus also talks of casting the disobedient into outer darkness, and Revelation gives us a very graphic description of the Lake of Fire, a place of torment prepared for the disobedient! Ummm… How does one explain hell without making God out to be a calculating psycho?
As much as the first part of benefits makes sense, this example is not fully reflective of God’s love for mankind. The beauty of mankind to God is also the thorn in His side! Our willfulness! God made us in His image to have a mind of our own, to have a passionate heart and an independent spirit. I think that’s what He loves so much about us. We’re His masterpiece.
But these qualities also mean that we are able to exercise choice, will and passion. When we exercise these things with love and wisdom, our potential for joy is limitless. But when we use our liberties for selfishness and foolishness, we’re a train wreck, a loose cannon or disaster waiting to happen! This is the tension that God lives within. But He won’t change it for anything. He won’t deny our willfulness. He knows our potential for love is so worth the choice He gives us.
It is our stubbornness that makes us ignore God’s counsel, His direction and His warnings about where our bad choices are leading us… He sent us prophets and helpers, and gave us no room for doubt as to the greatness of His love, by sending Jesus to take our due punishment…so that we don’t have to be burdened with guilt and condemnation about our sins. He has done everything but withdraw our godly quality…the gift of free will He bestowed on us from the beginning, in order that we may be reconciled to Him.
Really, what more can He do to show His love and mercy? In light of this, condemnation and hell is a very real choice made by those who reject Jesus. Unfortunately, it isn’t multiple choice. It is isn’t hell, heaven or utopia. It isn’t eternal life, eternal death or eternal existence in anarchy. It is either or.
You might say it is not much of a choice, but He has bestowed on you enough wisdom to know which is the better of the two. They are even exact opposites so that the correct choice is distinctively more attractive! It makes it that much likely that you will make the right choice! But with multiple choice, when there’s only one correct answer, you are more likely to make the wrong choice. So I do think offering us only two highly contrasting options is so loving of God. It’s an unbelievably easy choice and blatantly obvious what the right option is that you would have to really hate Him to choose Hell!
The main point here is that He gives you a choice!!! You can’t say you were forced to love Him, and you won’t find yourself in Heaven, moping about and sulking because you really wanted to go to hell instead, and God had not even bothered to make preparation for you there! In anticipation of the decision you would make, He took the liberty to prepare both Heaven and Hell, for those who choose wisely, and those who choose foolishly.
I think that is very thoughtful, and wise and loving too. He’s been perfectly reasonable, if you ask me. He invited you to fellowship, but you would have none of His love. He offered you light, but you asked for outer darkness instead! He invited you to Heaven, but you spat in His face and said you’d rather burn in hell! So be it! He’s not going to drag you to Heaven kicking and screaming…
Now, you’ve got to really love Him or really hate Him. Complacency is certainly not an acceptable response! For the passion He has shown, He requires an equally passionate response…the kind that will cause you to lay down your own life too, in love and appreciation of His sacrifice. If you can’t or won’t love Him back, it really is your loss – your funeral!
Photo credit: http://www.midnightmaniac.com
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