On Wednesday nights, students that I have the privilege to lead have the opportunity to ask any biblical, theological, ethical, or life question and put it into a cardboard mailbox. The following week, I take about five minutes to quickly answer as many questions as I can from the stage. We began this at the beginning of January and it has been really fun so far.
Last week, a wonderfully curious girl asked a deeply profound question: Why does God love us?
You have no idea how many times I have asked myself this question. Why does God love us? It is such a great question to ask. There is no doubting that God does in fact love us. We see it over and over again in Scripture. In fact, much of the Bible is a one-sided love story, as God’s people play the role of the adulterous spouse, while God plays the role of the unbroken lover bound and determined to have his bride despite her infidelity. Why would God choose to love Abraham? He was a moon worshiper. Why Moses? He was a cowardly murderer. Why David? He was a murderous adulterer. Why the people of Israel in general? They wanted to worship a golden calf rather than the God who had literally taken them through waters to salvation from slavery.
Or maybe a more appropriate and personal question, “Why does God love me?” Someone who had built a kingdom where only I could rule. Someone who gladly thanked God for his gifts and then desecrated them by using them my way, not his. Someone who claimed lordship over my own body and life and used both for my glory. And even now, while redeemed, but still imperfect, why does he love me? Why does he love me when the stench of my hypocrisy rises to heaven?
Not How, But Why?
Look, I’m a theology student. I know how God can love me. I know that his love for me is not based on my works. In spite of my guilt, God loved me on the basis of his grace. And the ultimate display of his love is sending Christ to die in my place to take away my guilt. How is a holy and just God able to justify guilty sinners? The answer is written in the blood of the cross. I understand that he is committed to his covenant. But why enter into a covenant with sinners? Why pursue us? I understand that he loves us on the basis of his grace. But why show us grace in the first place? Because it is his nature? Well, his nature would be no different whether he showed us grace or left us in our sin. I get the how. But that’s not the question this young girl wants answered.
Why does he do it? Why does he love unworthy, dirty, blasphemous, prideful sinners? Why does he love those who have rebelled against him? Why does he love those who have broken his laws? Why does he love those who have taken all of the good gifts he has given us and used them to scheme against him? Why? Why does God love us?
For His Glory
The best biblical evidence I can find for the reason God would love us is that God loves us for his glory. I am borrowing from John Piper here. Shocker, I know. But Piper gives the most compelling answer to this almost ethereal question.
According to Piper, God loves us because he wants to glorify himself. Here are some examples he gives:
– God loves us by adopting us into his family, and he does this for his glory. “In love he predestined us for adoption to the praise of his glorious grace” (Eph. 1:5-6).
– God loves us by creating us, and he does this for his glory. “…Everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory” (Isa. 43:6-7).
– God loves us by sending us a Savior, and he does this for his glory. “The angel said to them, “I bring you good news of great joy. . .For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior. . .And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest’” (Luke 2:10-14).
– God loves us by Christ’s dying for us, and he does this for his glory. “The love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Cor. 5:14-15).
And these are just a few reasons Piper gives. To tell you the truth, I don’t ultimately know why God would choose to love his enemies. I believe the Bible demonstrates God loves us for his glory. God makes himself the greatest treasure when he loves us for his glory. This means that even when we are tempted to make a god out of the loving gifts God gives us, we will see that the reason he loves us is for the praise and glory of his name, which causes us to make him our only God.
I know that it is an important question to ask because of what it causes us to think about. It causes us to think about God’s holiness and perfection and glory. It causes us to think about our sin and our guilt. It causes us to think about God’s grace. And even though we may never know exactly why a gloriously perfect God would choose to love horribly imperfect sinners, we know for sure what the apostle Paul said to the church at Rome: “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). What tremendous love!
And on the basis of this extreme love, we are to love others. Time to repent.
Mathew Gilbert is the Children’s Pastor at First Baptist Church East Bernstadt. He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba. You can follow him on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.