“Does God love all humanity, every single person?” My natural inclination right off the bat is to say, “Yes. Yes, God loves all humanity, every single person.”
But we do not want what I want to think but we want to look at what the Bible says and wrestle with its teaching. So, what does the Bible say?
This may be a harder question than it would first appear. This is because this question is never explicitly asked in Scripture and thus is never explicitly answered. It is difficult because we are vying for certain answers. We so often want to make God like ourselves (Ps. 50:21). It is also a difficult question because the Bible seems to teach that God at the same time loves the whole world and yet hates all the rebellious.
In Scripture, we see that God has made man in His image (Gen. 1:26-27), so in as much as each person still reflects God’s image, God, I believe, loves that aspect of them.
In Matthew 5:43-48, Jesus tells His disciples to love their enemies and gives God the Father as an example. God “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Matthew, in this passage says that He does this in love.
God, therefore, clearly has this kind of love for all humanity. He is the example that we are to imitate. We are to “love our enemies” in imitation of God Himself. Thus, I conclude, yes, God does love all humanity, every single person. In a similar way, Psalm 145 says, “The LORD is good to all, and His mercy is over all that He has made” (Ps. 145:9).
Yet, the Bible also says that God hates all workers of iniquity (see for example Ps. 5:5; 11:5b-6; Rom. 1:18ff; Jn. 3:36). As we look at this question, it is important to remember that the LORD is God and He is good even if we cannot understand His ways. We must remember that although God has revealed Himself and we can truly know Him yet we cannot exhaustively grasp Him.
We neatly classify His attributes into categories yet the truth is all His attributes bleed together. We talk about the attributes or characteristics of love and justice or wrath but they are vitally connected in the perfection of the Godhead.
Thus, although God loves every single person, I believe the way in which God loves every single person is not the same. I commanded to love all people yet my love for my wife and children is greater and different than my love for those that I do not know.
God, as I think we’ve seen, has a common love for all people, He is good to all as Psalm 145 says, yet He has a special saving love for His people. Not all will be saved, not all will experience His Fatherly love.
Truly, I cannot fully understand how God has a common love for all and yet hates the wicked but I believe it is the clear attestation of Scripture.
Perhaps the best way to understand it is by analogy. So, for instance, I believe I can rightly say that I hate all the various shooters that have sprouted up all over the country. They have done all forms of wickedness but at the same time, I desire that they repent and turn to the Lord and be saved. So, in a sense, I both have a love and a hatred for them. To me it sounds a lot like Ezekiel’s, “Turn back, turn back from your evil ways” (Ezek. 33:11 yet see Ps. 7:12; Rom. 2:4-5). Or 2 Peter 3:9 where it says that the Lord does not wish that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
In this discussion, it is also important to consider that love and hate may not be as distant as we often make them. For instance, I love my kids and since I love them, I want to protect them and so my love leads me to hate child molesters (that is not to say grace and forgiveness is not possible, they certainly are). Or again, any monarch that has a love for his kingdom and wants to see his nation thrive will jealously seek the prosperity of the country that he is responsible for. He will do this even if it means the destruction of other people, powers, and nations. Further, he will love that which helps his country and hate that which thwarts it. This is a good and right thing for any political leader. Or, to go still further on, what do you think I feel towards the Lyme disease that is causing my wife such sickness and discomfort?…
So, hopefully we can see, that to love something is often to hate other things. Love and hate are not mutually exclusive but rather there is a close correlation between them. In fact, I believe, they produce a cascading effect on each other; as one increases so does the other. God jealously protects the glory and wonder of heaven and thus furiously pours out His wrath in hell. So, for example, Deuteronomy instructs us to rejoice because God takes vengeance on His adversaries. He repays those who hate Him and cleanses His people’s land (Deut. 32:43).
I honestly could and want to go on here but I hope this suffices at least for the time being. I truly believe that it is right and good to tell people that God loves them, every single person. I think of Jesus weeping over Jerusalem, “How often I would have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” (Matt. 23:37). Yet, as we have seen, that is not the end of it. God also rightly pours out His fury and wrath on unrepentant sinners.
A few resources on this subject that have been especially helpful to me are:
- D. A. Carson’s book The Difficult Doctrine of the Love God
- John Frame’s book The Doctrine of God
- Wayne Grudem’s book Systematic Theology
- W. Tozer’s book The Knowledge of the Holy