God’s Offensive Love

offensiveGod’s kind of love is the highest kind of love. It is unconditional, freely-given, abundant, never-ending, and steadfast through all circumstances.

“What can separate us from the love of God?” Paul asks in Romans 8. “Nothing,” he says. Not the most powerful person on earth, now or in the future. Not death or the forces that bring it. There is no height that exceeds it, nor depth it will not stoop to. It has no beginning before which it was not, and it has no end. Beyond even death and taxes, it is the one certainty of the universe.

It is also offensive.

There are some people whose actions are so insidious, whose character is so deformed, whose minds are so depraved that loving them seems offensive.

It is an offense against their victims, who suffered in ways that are unimaginable.

It is offensive against all notions of justice and fairness. It violates the laws of nature, that “what goes around comes around” or, as Jesus himself put it, you reap what you sow.

That’s right and fair and just.

And then God’s love gets in the middle of it and messes things up.

What goes around gets stopped before it can come around, and what’s reaped is far nicer and better than what was sowed, and that’s just not right.

It isn’t.

Dr. Gregory Boyd is an Anabaptist pastor, professor, and writer who in 2014 wrote an article, “How Are We to Love the Soldiers of ISIS?” He begins by saying, “Over the last several weeks I’ve received some form of this question almost every day.

“In some cases the question is asked rhetorically, as though the very question exposes the absurdity of suggesting we are to love this terroristic group.”

It is absurd, which is what makes it offensive as well.

These aren’t non-Christians asking this question; they are Christians, followers of the Jesus who said, “Love your enemies.”

He gives a very thoughtful response, although I would quibble with parts. In the end, though, he tells us to remember that even ISIS soldiers are deemed to be of such worth in God’s eyes that he was willing to sacrifice his son for them, and that we should show our love for them by praying for them and their families, as Jesus told us to.

Both of these are good instructions, but I think that even Dr. Boyd knows that the question, “How are we to love the soldiers of ISIS?” isn’t so much a how-to question as it is a why-should-we question.

It just feels wrong. It feels unnatural. And it’s natural to feel this way.

Loving my own children is natural, but loving your children, though it’s easy to do because they are so fantastic, is a little less so.

That’s natural, right? For your love for someone else’s child to be different than your love for your own child? Not quite so deep, not quite so unconditional, not quite so high.

And if your child hurts my child my love will be a lot less deep, quite conditional, much lower. That’s natural too.

We love our own kids differently.

Jonah was offended by God’s love. Jonah was a son of Abraham, a member of God’s family by marriage and covenant, yet he found it unfair, unjust, and completely unnatural that God loved the people of Ninevah—a people who by God’s own accounting were wicked—as much as he loved the people of Israel and treated them with as much patience and forgiveness as he did his own family.

“You’re offended?” God asked. “You’re angry? You said it yourself—I am a God who is full of grace and merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and ready to relent from punishing.

“How else am I supposed to act? Am I supposed to act contrary to my nature? That would be unnatural.

“Besides, they are my children too. And maybe that’s what most offends you.”

While loving our children is natural, loving our enemies is not. Depending on who our enemies are, it’s offensive, and we’re offended that God doesn’t agree with us.

So let’s just admit it. Until we do, we’ll never be able to love the way God does.

Photo Credit: © Can Stock Photo / Voyagerix

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