But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8
Jesus loves sinners. Did you know that? When Jesus came to the earth, He sought and befriended the tax collectors, the prostitutes, and those on the margins of society (Mark 2:16-17). Though they did not deserve it, Christ freely and graciously offered them His love. And guess what, He offers it to you as well! Though we all have sinned and rebelled against God (Romans 3:23), Jesus still loves us and invites us into an intimate relationship with Him. No matter what you have done in your past and no matter how far you have strayed – God still loves you! The Bible reveals that the God of the universe genuinely cares about our concerns and has an authentic affection for each one of us. If you have ever questioned God’s love for you, I want to encourage you to look to the cross. John 3:16 states, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” God’s love for the world is the driving force of the gospel message. There is no gospel message apart from the love of God. However, in our culture the word love has been abused and altered. Many have come to think that love is synonymous with approve. True love, on the other hand, requires us to speak truth (Ephesians 4:15) and offer correction (Proverbs 13:24). Certainly, we should not encourage or condone our loved ones to engage in reckless behavior. It is actually unloving not to correct a loved one when they are wrong or are doing something immoral or harmful. Thus, Christ’s love for sinners does not signify His approval of sin, but His love comes in spite of our sin. When Jesus began His earthly ministry, He preached a message of repentance calling all sinners to turn from their ways and follow Him. But Jesus is not doing this out of hate, rather Jesus rebukes and chastises those He loves (Revelation 3:19). There is a popular quote that states, “Jesus loves you as you are, but He loves you too much to leave you that way.” I believe this perfectly captures the essence of the gospel. Jesus came because He loves us and wants what is best for us. But sin is not what is best for us because it separates us from God. Therefore, Jesus came to free us from our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
However, some criticize Christianity because they view the gospel message as a scare-tactic used by Christians to manipulate individuals to adhere to a set of doctrines for fear of being cast into hell. But this could not be further from the truth. The gospel is a message of salvation, not condemnation. John 3:17 states, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” Jesus came to save the world. His desire is not to condemn anyone. God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 33:11). His desire is that everyone would be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4). Therefore, the Bible does not describe a God eager to destroy the wicked and condemn them to hell. Instead, the Bible reveals the precious truth that God is love (1 John 4:8).
Additionally, Jesus is not concerned with individuals simply assenting to the truth that there is a God, for even the demons believe and tremble (James 2:19). Rather, His purpose is to draw us into a personal and loving relationship with Him. However, some may ask, “If Jesus really loves the world, then why does anyone go to hell?” John 3:18-19 states, “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” Those who are condemned are not condemned due to God’s lack of love for them, rather it is because they refuse to believe in Jesus and accept His gracious offer of salvation. Romans 6:23 states, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Many love their sin too much and are unwilling to give it up. God will not coerce you nor will He force you to love and obey Him. If we choose our sin over Christ, we reject God’s offer of salvation. One cannot reject the antidote to poison and expect to be healed. Likewise, one cannot reject Christ’s love and atoning work on the cross and expect eternal life. Therefore, we must turn from our sin and trust in Jesus Christ to be saved and experience His perfect love.
I pray that we all would accept Christ and build our lives upon the firm foundation of His love!