Most people in the Western world who have had the slightest exposure to Christianity have absorbed certain preconceptions, through no fault of their own. They've heard the Gospel, or parts of the Gospel, or what somebody says is the Gospel, and they have certain ideas rooted deep in their minds: "We're all God's children. God loves everyone. Hey, 'God is love,' right? God loves me, no matter who or what I am!" Part of this is wishful thinking, but mostly it's the result of no thinking at all - - - and fuzzy, dishonest preaching by those who claim to be speaking for God. It's a very popular concept: "God hates the sin, but loves the sinner! We're all part of God's family!" Various groups, like the homosexual community, even make up bumper stickers and signs proclaiming how much God loves them.
We're going to throw away the popular preconceptions, and look at the facts, as revealed in the Bible. And, without trying to sound clever, the Bible has good news, and bad news. The Gospel, of course, is good news: that's what "gospel" means. But the Gospel doesn't say that God loves everybody.
Someone says, "What about John 3:16?" We'll get to that. But even that verse doesn't say that God loves everybody. Read it carefully; we'll be coming back to it.
Before getting into the scriptures themselves, we're going to answer the question, honestly and without apology. This answer is bound to be controversial, but it is Biblically true, even though most Christian pastors and priests don't have the guts to say it.
If you've been born again, according to Jesus' words in John 3:3-7; if you've received Him as your personal Saviour, according to John 1:12; if you've come to Him honestly, by an act of the will, and asked Him to forgive you and save you, then you're a child of God, and God loves you with all His heart, and will never stop loving you. You may have never been inside a church in your life before coming to Christ; you may have been a drunk or a sexual deviant or a glutton or a liar; that has nothing to do with it. He loves you more than you can possibly imagine; when you get to Heaven, you'll have a better idea of His great love, but even then you'll never understand it completely. You have been given eternal life, and it's already begun.
If you have not received Jesus Christ as your Saviour, and been born again in a moment of time, then God does not love you: in fact, you are God's enemy. Never mind the stupid cliché about "Hate the sin, love the sinner;" if you've chosen, by your own free will, to reject salvation on God's terms, God does not love you. You can be a member of a church or the pastor of a church or a Baptist or a Muslim or a Presbyterian; but if you haven't been born again, God does not love you. Never mind the Rosary or the confirmation or the perfect attendance record in Sunday School; those have nothing to do with it. I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but it's better you hear it now, than at the Judgment. You, too, will have "eternal life," but it will be spent in Hell.
In 1741, Jonathan Edwards, one of the most noted preachers in American history, delivered a message in Enfield, Connecticut. It was called "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," and is regarded as one of the greatest sermons ever preached; for decades, it was included in American literature textbooks, as an example of great writing. But its real value is that it presents, with no sugar coating and no apologies, God's view of unsaved men and women. It is not a pleasant reading experience, but if you're not a believer, and you have the guts, you should read it. It's worth more than all the books ever written by Billy Graham or Joel Osteen or Rick Warren or any of the Popes.
"Never mind Jonathan Edwards," someone says. "The Bible says God loves everybody, and that's what matters!" But, unfortunately, that's not what the Bible says. God actually hates some people. The scriptures can speak for themselves:
And ye shall not walk in the manners of the nation, which I cast out before you: for they committed all these things, and therefore I abhorred them (Leviticus 20:23). He didn't "abhor" the abominations; He abhorred the people who committed the abominations. That's clear.
For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee. The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity (Psalm 5:4, 5). "Hatest?" Well, that's what the Bible says.
God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day (Psalm 7:11).
The LORD trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth (Psalm 11:5). "Trieth" means "tests," or "examines." Notice: those last three quotes weren't from some angry, long-bearded old prophet like Jeremiah or Ezekiel - - - not that they'd be any less true if they were. Those were Psalms of David, the little shepherd boy who killed Goliath, the "sweet psalmist of Israel." And he had no illusions about "God loving everybody."
What about Solomon? He was the wisest man who ever lived, according to the Bible, apart from Jesus Christ. What did he have to say about God loving everybody? These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren (Proverbs 6:16-19). It doesn't say God hates the acts; it says He hates the people who commit the acts. Maybe your hands have never shed innocent blood (like an abortionist or a Muslim terrorist), but how about the rest of the list? Have you ever displayed a proud look? Told a lie? Had a wicked fantasy or plan or imagination? Hurried down to the "club" after work, or to that "special" motel? And you think God loves you?
"But wait! A few paragraphs back, you said it didn't matter if I was a sexual deviant or a liar or any of those things!" No, I didn't. I said that having done those things wouldn't stop God from loving and accepting you, if you received His Son as your Saviour. If you don't do that, you're sunk: God doesn't love you at all.
"But that's all Old Testament stuff," someone protests. "That's that cruel old God of the Old Testament. Jesus and the New Testament are all about love!" Actually, God's fury is more awful in the New Testament than in the Old, but that's another subject. If you want to talk about Jesus....
In the Gospel of Luke, people came to ask Jesus about a recent atrocity that had occurred. They wanted to know if the victims were more "wicked" than anybody else: was God judging them? Jesus, as always, was ready with an answer: and He saw their motivations. They wanted to believe that God only judged really bad people. They were self-righteous, like most modern people. ("Ted Bundy or those 9/11 guys might be in Hell, but I'm not that bad!") And Jesus turned their question back on them:
There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish (Luke 13:1-5). Jesus was not a sucker or a fool. People who object to "fire and brimstone preaching" are too ignorant to know that the first such preacher in Christian history was Jesus Himself: Mark 9:43-48, Luke 17:29.
The classic example of God's love vs. His hatred is that of the twins Jacob and Esau (Genesis 25), two of the progenitors of the Israelis and Palestinians (Philistines). Because Esau had no respect for the spiritual blessings he had been given, God clearly stated - - - in the New Testament - - - how He felt about the boy: As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated (Romans 9:13). He had already made this clear in Malachi 1:3: And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness. If you can read those verses and say that "God loves the sinner, but hates the sin," then you are either functionally illiterate, or willfully in denial of God's revelation.
If you have never received Jesus Christ, and found forgiveness and refuge in Him, then God doesn't view you as a "lovable" creature at all. He views you as a child of disobedience (Colossians 3:6), a child of wrath (Ephesians 5:6), and, for that matter, a child of the Devil himself (John 8:44, Jesus speaking). God is not your Father; God is your enemy (Romans 8:7).
So, what about John 3:16, and all the wonderful, priceless declarations of God's love in the Bible? Am I denying them, or saying they're not true? Not at all! God forbid! But you need to read them carefully, and if you do, you'll notice something.
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 John 3:16).
But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).
Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us (Romans 8:37).
Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not (1 John 3:1).
In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:9-10).
I could easily list a score of others, but you can check the references for yourself. Every time the Bible talks about God loving the world, all people ever born, it's in the past tense - - - for God so loved the world, etc. He loved the world, everyone from you and your children to Osama Bin Laden, enough to send His Son to die for your salvation. Now, that's not "my interpretation." I quoted the actual verses. The other verses about God's universal love say it the same way.
The love of God is found at Calvary, at the foot of the cross of Jesus Christ, and nowhere else. What more could God do, to demonstrate His love? After allowing His Son to voluntarily come to earth and be tortured to death, so that you might be saved, what more does He owe you? Are you so special, and so wonderful, that you deserve something more?
God loved everyone, and His love was so great that He he made the greatest sacrifice imaginable to make your salvation possible. Even now, if you're still separated from God by sin and stubbornness and unbelief, God wants you to be saved, and He is willing and eager for you to come to Him, and find His love. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Jesus Christ was crucified, not just so that a few "elect" people could be saved, but so that anyone who was willing could be saved: But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:5-6).
That includes me, and I received Jesus Christ, by an act of the will, simply crying out to Him for forgiveness and salvation, many years ago. That's when the love of God saved me! And you can be saved, too, and brought into Christ's family, and become a son of God, at this very moment - - - if you're willing.
God loves everyone who has placed their faith in His Son. He loves us with a love that is eternal, indescribable, and that cannot be taken away. But we can't receive that love by clinging to our own traditions or superstitions of ego: we have to come to Jesus Christ. He's the only Way - - - and He's available to everyone.
If you want to, you can meet Him today. But if you'd rather continue in your own opinions, and what some preacher or professor has drummed into your head, then you're in a dangerous place.
God showed the human race His universal, all-encompassing love at Calvary, when His Son bore our sins. But if you're not willing to believe that, then don't talk to the rest of us about the love of God, because you know absolutely nothing about it.
God paid the highest price imaginable to show His love for you. But if that wasn't good enough .... take your chances. You'll eventually have an opportunity to explain your reasons to Him, but it will be far, far too late.