God Doesn’t Love Everyone the Same
I am the father of a son and daughter, and a step-father to a son and daughter. Each one of these children is, as the Psalmist says, “a gift from the Lord.” I love all of them, but I don’t love them all the same. I don’t mean that I love my son more than my daughter, or my step-daughter more than my step-son. I’m not speaking of a quantitative difference, as if love, like cups of sugar, can be weighed and measured. Rather, I love them all uniquely, for each one is precisely that—unique, an individual, to whom I give myself in love in a way befitting who they are, and the special relationship we share. What one needs is not always what another needs. Just as there is a time for a compassionate love, so there is a time for tough love, as well as every manifestation of love in between. Imperfect as my human, paternal love is, I try to love fully, as well as uniquely, the children whom God has given to me.
We do not call God ”Father” because he is like we are; we call men ”fathers” because they are like God is. We are imitators, he the real thing. It is in imitation of our Father that we love our children, each uniquely, for that is how God loves us. The love of the Father is not a impersonal disposition of goodness toward humanity, like patriotic men love their country. The breadth of divine love (”for God so loved the world”) must be paired with the particularity of his love (”the disciple whom Jesus loved”). The father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, for example, loved both his sons, the one who stayed and the one who strayed, but he loved each one differently. The older brother thought erroneously that he and his younger brother were competing for their father’s affections, and that, though he deserved more of it, his dad was playing favorites and giving away all his love to his brother. But the father reminded him that each child, while fully beloved, is loved differently. And even in that mild rebuke, the father was loving his oldest son toward a greater clarity of what love is and does.
There were several years in my life when I was convinced that God no longer loved me, because he was not doing for me what I thought a Father should do. Of course, what is that but an attitude common to selfish, immature children, who always think they know best, and parents are clueless and uncaring? But the Father held me close through that time too, though I refused to see it. He ever so gently and patiently loved me all the way to repentance. He knew me far better than I knew myself, and thus opened his heart to me in the best possible way. It was no generic announcement of divine generosity that called me out of the shadows, but the voice of a Father who called me by name, and loved me as Chad, not David or John or Tom.
Whoever you are, your Father loves you differently than he loves other people. You are more than a singular entity in the mass we call humanity. You are a person in the truest kind of personal relationship, for you are in a relationship with your Father, who formed you in the womb, has plumbed the depths of your being, and is intimately acquainted with every minutiae of who you are. Just as you are, he loves you. Fully and yet uniquely, he loves you as his child.
There will be times when you will doubt it. There will be days when you misunderstand his love. But one thing is certain: you will never escape it, for love is who God is, and therefore loving is what God does. A one-of-a-kind God who loves the one-of-a-kind you.
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