Does God love you? Does God love me? How much does He love me?
These are questions many people wonder about, especially during those low points of life when days turn dark and sorrowful, and trials and troubles come one after another like relentless waves of the sea.
It is not a new question. Early Christians, persecuted by the Jews, persecuted by the Romans, forced to endure hardships and troubles in the cause of their faith must surely have asked themselves at times how much God loved them.
The apostle Paul, writing to the church in Rome, penned the following eloquent words on the matter: “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39; NKJV)
To persuade is to convince through argumentation, evidence, or pleas so that a person either acts in a certain way, or believes a certain thing to be true.
We might ask, who persuaded Paul to believe so strongly in the love of God? And Paul supplies the answer to that question a few verses earlier (cf. Romans 8:31-34). It was God Himself who had so persuaded the apostle: through the gift of His son. If God gave us His own Son, out of love for us, to save us and justify us through our response to that gift, then why would we ever think that God did not love us.
It was, for Paul, as if there were two sides making the case.
On the one hand, the devil, through the application of heart-aches and misery, plied Paul with the thought that God did not love Him. The devil pointed Paul to the many things He was suffering: the beatings, the stonings, the hunger, the ship-wrecks, the abuse and hatred of the mobs (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:24-27); and through it all the devil was saying, “if God loved you, why would you be suffering these things?” But on the other hand was God’s case. God had so loved the world, He had so loved Paul, that He had sent His Son, to suffer and die. (John 3:16). Paul, considering the evidence from both sides, could boldly state, “I am persuaded!”
It was not the devil who won the argument, in Paul’s eyes. It was God. The evidence was overwhelming. He was persuaded that God loved him, and that, through everything the world could throw at him, God would continue to love him. It was in that persuasion, that deep conviction, that Paul could find the strength to, knowing that at the conclusion of it all, God would give him the victory in Christ (cf. Romans 8:37)
There is one thing in this world that can prevent men from enjoying the full benefits of the love of God, and that is man himself. A man can decide not to serve God. He can decide that he doesn’t trust God, or doesn’t believe in God, or that he doesn’t want to listen to God, and withdraw, in rebellious sin away from God. Jesus pleads, “Come to me, all you who are heavy laden,” (Matthew 11:28) but many refuse to heed the call. Jesus told a parable about a king who sent out wedding invitations to the marriage feast of his son, but the invitation was declined, sometimes violently, by the recipients (cf. Matthew 22:1-6). So too, We can personally, choosing for ourselves, decline the loving invitation of God. But for those that accept, God says that there is nothing that can force Him to abandon or stop loving that individual who is clinging to Him in faith.
Yet, still the devil whispers in our ears, presenting his case. He argues that God does not love us. That God does not want us. That God is absent, or even non-existent. He points us to various evidences to be considered, various hardships, various evils of one kind or another, regardless of the actual cause of those hardships. Indeed, the devil plays quite the hypocrite here, for many of the things we suffer are at his hand. As he played with Job (cf. Job 1 and 2), so he plays with us, on the one hand bringing calamity, and on the other urging us to curse God for allowing the calamity to occur.
But through it all God makes His case. There are many evidences God could point to concerning His love and care for man, but above them all is the solitary fact that God purposefully and with love aforethought, sent His Son to die for the sins of wicked men, so that men, through Him might know life. If I wouldn’t withhold my own Son, God asks, what would I withhold from you? (cf. Romans 8:32)
Our response, weighing the evidence, should be that of the apostle. Looking to Christ, and His love on the cross, we should be able to exclaim, “I am persuaded!”
If you would like to know the love of God in your life, the church of Christ invites you to study and worship with us at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis, Ohio. Likewise, if you have any questions, please share them with us through our website: chapelhillchurchofchrist.org.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ.