How much does God love us?*
My latest internal conversation:
Does God love me so much that I am free to choose or NOT choose God?
Does God love me so much that I'm free to be saved, regardless of my decisions?
This is the most important question I've asked myself in a long time. On the face of it they seem to be mutually exclusive. I don't know if my free will can exist within, or even after, God's final redemptive act.
I've always told myself that the greatest aspect of my creation (as I am made in the image of God) is the ability to choose. I am supposed to participate in God's creation as Adam did. Through my choices I can bring the Kingdom of God here or push it back. God doesn't want robots and all that. I'm a good Wesleyan... even my ability to choose is couched in God's great prevenient grace. I love because he first loved me. So, I am created in love, by love, and for love. Prevenient, justifying, and sanctifying grace.
But does that mean God loves me so much I can say “God, I don't want your salvation” and he's cool with that? And by cool with that I mean that I am so respected that God's will won't negate my will. Or does he love me so much his response is “Jack, it doesn't matter if you want your salvation because I do” (in which, God's will overtakes my own).
Grace is always a tricky proposition. As Jesus said, he didn't come for the righteous but for the condemned. Weird. It is not the healthy who need help but the sick.
And for this I can't help but think the flip side of the argument. If nothing can separate us from the love of God, does that mean that even I cannot separate myself from God's love?
Some would say that God's love is available for all who accept it. So while God sent his son for the world, the world must accept him to make that salvation complete. A lot of ink has been spilled explaining how one really accepts him. But still, it remains there.
Certainly repentance is necessary for salvation right? But does this turn into conditional love? The biggest “but” in the world: “God loves you, buuuuuut you have to accept that love yourself.”
Some would say God's love knows no “but” - it is unconditional. And the “but” is a HUGE conditional. God's love simply is. It cannot be spoiled by any condition – height, depth, angels, demons, life, or even death can separate us from God's love through Christ.
Certainly God's love never ends and is completely sufficient, right? But... does that mean there is no such thing as hell or that all my platitudes towards “free will” will simply be negated to “God's will”?
How much of a difference is there between a repentant sinner and an unrepentant sinner? Does God love them differently? When Jesus says he came for sinners, which kind of sinner was he referring to? Does the condition of the sinner change the unconditional love?
The obvious conclusion of this line of questioning results in two Jacks:
One Jack believes that God loves all to the point that we can reject him.
Another Jack believes that God loves all to the point that we cannot reject him (ultimately).
The bottom line is this: God's grace is sufficient. And I'm choosing God (or trying to), so I guess it doesn't really matter. Because I know he's already chosen me. Christ is counting on me, and I am counting on Christ. But if I didn't choose him? His grace would still be sufficient to bring me to that choice.
Yeah, that sounded as weird in my head as it did reading it.
*This post is not about whether or not God loves us. I take that as a forgone conclusion but it would make for an interesting post later. This post is simply to invite you into conversation regarding a Christian “splitting of the hairs” and my salvation or ministry does not hinge on this discussion. I would say that our approach to others (Christian and not) does hinge on such a conversation. But I would love your thoughts and you can help me be a better person. :)