Is God's love really only reserved for those who accept Jesus? Absolutely not.
The Bible says, ""For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son." (John 3:16-18, NIV)
And it says, "My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense -- Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world." (1 John 2:1-2, NIV).
Still further it says, "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9, NIV).
The issue isn't God's love for us, the issue is, and always has been our response to that love.
Suppose one person is in love with another person but the second person does not return that love. The first person, however, is determined to pursue the other despite the other's expressed desire to be left alone.
Is there any possible way for those actions by the first person to be seen as a love relationship? Absolutely not. The law would view such a relentless pursuit as stalking and an injunction to cease and desist would be forthcoming.
Anyone who reads the paper or listens to the news is familiar with the Jaycee Lee Duguard saga. Kidnapped at 11 years of age by Phillip and Nancy Garrido, Duguard was forced to be Phillip Garrido's wife for 18 years. Is there one among my readers who would describe that scenario as a loving relationship?
Just so, we must understand that while God wants a loving relationship with all mankind, that relationship can only be realized by those who will respond in kind to Him. God loves you so much He accepts you just the way you are, but He loves you so much He won't let you stay as you are.
Jesus said, "Everything and everyone that the Father has given me will come to me, and I won't turn any of them away." (John 6:37, CEV). And the Bible says, "Anyone who belongs to Christ is a new person. The past is forgotten, and everything is new." (2 Corinthians 5:17, CEV).
Now the reason the Just Judge of the Universe can and does accept us warts and all is because Jesus has paid the penalty for our sins and offers a free pardon to anyone who will accept it.
The issue is simple, either you can respond to God's love and accept His offer, or you can reject it insisting on your own way. Because God is love He will not force you into a relationship with Him, even if that means that at the end of your life you are eternally separated from Him because of your refusal to accept His free gift to you.
The War of 1812 and the Battle for New Orleans launched Andrew Jackson into the National limelight which resulted in his election into the office of President of the United States.
Following a different course, another hero of that war, James Wilson, moved westward where he became an outlaw stage coach robber. Eventually, Wilson was apprehended and sentenced to death. News of his arrest and scheduled execution reached the President who sent a pardon to this fallen hero.
On the day of the scheduled execution, the warden of the prison which housed Wilson entered his jail cell. However, instead of being there to lead him to his death, he offered him freedom.
Wilson's response shocked the warden -- he refused the pardon. The refusal went to the Supreme Court which ruled that Wilson must die. He was duly executed.
God loves you so much He will not force you into a relationship you don't want. Those who spend eternity in hell are successful rebels to the end. All their lives they have insisted that God leave them alone and with a broken heart of love, that is what God does.
Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington, GA.. For more information visit the Gateway website at www.gatewaycommunity.org