I’ve heard many preachers and teachers say something like this:
“God loves us! You see, God loves the whole world—but there is something special about the way that God loves his Church. He’s saved us! So, his love for us is greater than his love for others.”
There are various scriptures that people use to justify a statement like this. My question, though, is this: does God actually love his people more than he loves everyone else?
My answer is a resounding no.
Some people point to verses like 1 Timothy 4:10, which says, “For to this end we toil and struggle, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.” Many point to a passage like John 10:1-21, where Jesus discusses his role as the Shepherd. Since Jesus is talking about his flock, his sheep, then that reveals that there is a love that Jesus has for the sheep that he does not have for those outside of the herd.
There are other verses that are commonly used to support such a view of God’s love, however the point is clear: some say that God has a greater love for Christians, over and against the love that he has for the rest of the “unbelieving world.” However, a true understanding of God’s love helps us realize that this is not how it works at all.
Here’s the truth: God doesn’t love his people in a “special way”. He loves all people the same. Rather, God’s people experiences his love in a special way.
When we use the language of God loving people in different degrees or in different ways, we reduce love to something that our God simply does. However, no matter how cliché it is, we know that love is something that our God is. It’s his complete essence. A God for which love is something that he does might would be able to love differently, in various capacities. However, God can’t be any more or less of who he is. To do so would deny who he was.
No, you see, when we enter into the Church, God’s disposition toward us doesn’t change. Our disposition toward him changes. He didn’t love us anymore when we declared him as our Savior. We simply finally realized how much he loved us all along.
As long as a sheep is wandering away from the flock, it can’t benefit from the protection and care of the shepherd. However, when the shepherd seeks the sheep out and it enters into the flock, the sheep can finally begin to experience the benefits that the shepherd desired to give it all along.
So God doesn’t love some more than he does others—even if those “some” are those who confess him as Lord and love him as Father. His love in never changing and ever constant. However, when we do confess him and love him, we finally have our eyes opened to what we had been missing up until then.
There is something “special” about God’s love for his Church. But the specialness doen’t come on God’s end. It comes from our recognition of its beauty. When we realize that God showed his love for us in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us, we’ll understand that it’s a special love alright. It’s a special love that God shares for the whole world, if only they might have their eyes opened.