I mean, really, really loved someone who really, really didn't love you back?
I think of parents loving children who have run away. Or even children loving parents who are estranged. It could involve siblings loving other siblings who just want nothing to do with them, or a "one-sided love" between a man and a woman.
Sometimes I picture myself standing in the middle of my life; all the people I know are circling all around me. As I spin around to look at each one in the face, I realize that so many people are busy loving someone who doesn't love them back. I was brought to tears this past weekend because I was watching someone close to me, try her best to love someone who really should be loving her back, but doesn't. I also wanted to cry watching children cry out for their mother's attention, but just couldn't get the time of day.
I also love someone who doesn't love me back. I sacrifice a lot just to try and earn this persons love in return. It's heartbreaking.
But I was thinking about all of these situations the other day and I started thinking about God's love (of course). I started to try and imagine how much God loves me, because if I am able to continue loving someone who doesn't love me (and therefore doesn't treat me very well...), then God will still be able to love me when I don't treat Him so great.
But then I began to think about the fact that as Christians, we do love God. He loves us, and we love Him. So what about all the people who don't love God? Does God love them?
The gospel of John tells us that "God so loved the world, He sent His Son, so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16)." 1 Timothy 2 states that Christ has died for all, and 1 John 2 states that Jesus Christ atoned for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2). *Sidenote* I think it is interesting that right after this in 1 John, the scripture goes into a big push on loving one another...some of my favorite passages*** We also see in the gospel of John that the Lamb of God has come to take away the sins of the world (John 1:29b).
There is a lot of debate about the theological issue "Limited Atonement". For those of you who might not know what that means, "Limited Atonement" is the theological theory that states that when Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the "world", He actually only died for Christians (the "elect"), because He already foreknew who all the Christians would be. While this seems to make sense me (I understand it is a sensitive subject to others), the sensitive part of this theory would be that Jesus' blood did not cover the sins of all people, because if it did, that would kind of be a "waste" of "atonement" - hence, "limited atonement".
Like I said, this has made sense to me over the years because I would hate to see Jesus' sacrifice go to "waste" for people who (God already knows) will never accept God as their Lord and Savior. But then I began thinking about this one-sided love I am involved with, and I realized that this love was in no way "limited". I mean, people say that I am stupid for feeling this way, but, it is what it is. I have asked God, "please, let me love less", but He is not allowing it. So for now, even though I get a back to my face, I will still sacrifice anything for the well being of this person, to the point of laying down my life, out of love. Would we call God stupid for loving people who will never love Him back?
I attribute this faithful love that I have to the fact that I have just a bit of God's love living within me (which is quite a miracle on its own!). And I started thinking, well, if I can love someone, and sacrifice anything for someone who doesn't love me back, why wouldn't God do the same. Why wouldn't God die for the "whole world", in its true sense of the word "world", as a sign of His love. He isn't "wasting" His atonement by shedding His blood for people who will turn their back on Him in the end...He is truly loving them.
I can feel all my Calvinist friends stirring in their seats right now, but I just want to think about the beauty and meaning of our Lord and Savior sacrificing Himself for someone who will never love Him. If Jesus Christ laid down His life for a lot of people who will never love Him (a full atonement)...I don't think this is a bad thing.
By no irony, as we read on in 1 John, moving into chapter 3, we find God's word telling us that, "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers."
Yes. This is how I know what love is.
*I do want to note that 1 John 3 is specifically talking to Christians, but I think if you wanted to argue against limited atonement, you could possibly use this scripture to make a statement about Christ laying down His life, and then tying it into the "love" theme that is all over the gospel of John.