God’s Love for All Humankind
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Jesus spent a disproportionate amount of time with people described in the Gospels as the poor, the blind, the lame, the lepers, the hungry, sinners, prostitutes, tax collectors, the persecuted, the downtrodden, the captives, those possessed by unclean spirits, all who labor and are heavy burdened, the rabble who know nothing of the law, the crowds, the little ones, the least, the last, and the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
In short, Jesus hung out with ragamuffins.
Obviously, His love for failures and nobodies was not an exclusive love—that would merely substitute one class prejudice for another. He related with warmth and compassion to the middle and upper classes not because of their family connections, financial clout, intelligence, or Social Register status, but because they, too, were God’s children.
While the term “poor” in the gospel includes the economically deprived and embraces all the oppressed who are dependent upon the mercy of others, it extends to all who rely entirely upon the mercy of God and accept the gospel of grace—the poor in spirit.1 Jesus’ preference for little people and partiality toward ragamuffins is an irrefutable fact of the gospel narrative…
In His reply to the disciples’ question about who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven,2 Jesus abolished any distinction between the elite and the ordinary in the Christian community. So he called a little child to him whom he set among them. Then he said, “In truth I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven. And so, the one who makes himself as little as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven.”3 …
For the disciple of Jesus, “becoming like a little child” means the willingness to accept oneself as being of little account and to be regarded as unimportant. The little child who is the image of the kingdom is a symbol of those who have the lowest places in society, the poor and the oppressed, the beggars, the prostitutes and tax collectors—the people whom Jesus often called the “little ones” or the “least.”…
Jesus ritually acted out His insight into Abba’s indiscriminate love—a love that causes His sun to rise on bad men as well as good, and His rain to fall on honest and dishonest men alike.4 The inclusion of sinners in the community of salvation, symbolized in table fellowship, is the most dramatic expression of the ragamuffin gospel and the merciful love of the redeeming God.
If Jesus appeared at your dining room table tonight with knowledge of everything you are and are not, total comprehension of your life story and every skeleton hidden in your closet; if He laid out the real state of your present discipleship with the hidden agenda, the mixed motives, and the dark desires buried in your psyche, you would feel His acceptance and forgiveness.—Brennan Manning5
God’s love for every human being
God’s love extends to every human. Ever since He created human beings, He has loved them. No matter where they stand relationally with Him, He loves them. They may not believe He exists; they may believe He exists but hate Him; they may want nothing to do with Him; but nevertheless, He loves them. His love, kindness, and care are given to them by virtue of their being part of humanity. Human beings were created in God’s image. He loves every single one of us, and His love for us translates into loving action on His part—His care and blessings given to humankind.
“You visit the earth and water it; You greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; You provide their grain, for so You have prepared it. You water its furrows abundantly, settling its ridges, softening it with showers, and blessing its growth. You crown the year with Your bounty; Your wagon tracks overflow with abundance. The pastures of the wilderness overflow, the hills gird themselves with joy, the meadows clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy.”6
When Jesus told His disciples to love their enemies, He said that in doing so they would be imitating God’s love, for God shows love to and is kind to all, even the ungrateful and the evil.7 He makes His sun rise and the rain to fall on everyone. God’s love and His loving actions are extended to all people, no matter what their moral standard.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”8
Jesus also expressed God’s love toward everyone when He made the point that if God takes care of the birds of the air and the grass of the field, certainly He will care for people, as they have more value than the birds.9—Peter Amsterdam
The fundamental truth
The fact that God is love is the fundamental truth about Him. Love is His core, His very being. Everything God does reflects and depends on His love. Love, however, does not define God; God’s character is what defines love.
God expresses His love for humanity in three distinct ways. The first is His common love, best described by that beautiful verse in John’s Gospel: “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.”10 God extends this love to everyone, caring about each and every one of us without favouritism. Even though He longs that all people would come to Him to be saved, He still bestows blessing and provision on those who have not yet turned to Him.
Out of God’s common love comes His covenant love, given to the people He has set aside for His purposes. In the Old Testament, this was the nation of Israel. He did not love Israel because they were morally better or because they were His chosen people to bring the Messiah into the world, but for the simple reason that God is love. This covenant love for His people extends into the New Testament for His church and will go on until the end of this age in which every person who accepts Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour shares in the convent love of God.
Out of God’s covenant love comes His centered love, which is what we experience individually as we enter into a relationship with God. Our personal experience of God’s love is subject to our loving Him back. The evidence of our personal experience of God’s love is conveyed in Matthew 22:37 when Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This means that everything we do, everything our affections are placed on, everything our energy is engaged in and every ambition we hold will, in some way, say “I love You, God.” It is a reciprocal relationship in which God’s centered love for us becomes the means of His love flowing through us to the benefit of others.
Jesus gave up everything to come to earth, laying down His heavenly glory to die as a man for our sins so He could restore our broken relationship with God. Above all else, God’s common love for the world and its people, His covenant love for those in Christ and His centered love for us individually are supremely expressed in the cross of Christ.—Brett McBride
Published on Anchor April 2021. Read by Reuben Ruchevsky.
Music by John Listen.
1 Matthew 5:3.
2 Matthew 18.
3 Matthew 18:2–4.
4 See Matthew 5:45.
5 Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel (Multnomah, 2005).
6 Psalm 65:9–13 ESV.
7 Luke 6:35–36.
8 Matthew 5:43–45.
9 Matthew 6:26–30.
10 John 3:16.