I love my family. I am married to the most amazing woman and am the father of two beautiful little girls. It doesn’t get much better.
However, I don’t love my wife the same way I love my children, and vice versa. It’s not as if I love my wife more than my children or love my children more than my wife. They are different loves. They are two different loves because they are two different relationships.
It’s the same thing with extended family and friends. I doubt you love your friends the same way you love your family (although this has overlap, I understand). We all love with different types of love for each other. It’s not that we love somebody more, but that our relationship calls for a different type of love.
Are you following me?
This sentiment is the same as it relates to God’s love, as the Trinity, for the whole world and His church. Yes, there are those passages—specifically Psalm 5:5–that indicate God hates those who do evil. But Scripture is also very clear in that God shows His love to the whole world in multiple ways, namely in giving His Son as a sacrifice for those who believe (John 3:16) and showering everybody with common grace, regardless of one’s relationship with God.
The Bible, however, also makes it very clear that God has a special, affectionate, redeeming love for His children. It should not be controversial to say this: God loves His children differently than unbelievers. It’s a covenantal love, a love that is eternal and unbreakable. God does not have that same relationship with unbelievers.
“When we look at the concept of the love of God in Scripture, we see distinctions that have to be made,” the late RC Sproul once said. “Historically and theologically we distinguish among three types of divine love.”
These three loves are God’s love of benevolence, beneficence, and complacency. Understanding these loves of God will help us with the question posed in the title.
God’s love of benevolence is simply His good will toward all creatures. His love of beneficence, however, is more specific. This love deals with how the rain falls on the just and the unjust (Matt. 5:45), and how both believers and unbelievers can enjoy good food, wonderful music, and glorious views of nature. God’s love of complacency, though, is His special, covenantal love He has for His children.
God does not love the whole world with a love of complacency. He does not love all people the same—and He certainly does not love all people unconditionally. If He loved all people unconditionally, repentance wouldn’t be necessary.
So what are we to make of this? As Christians, this information isn’t supposed to puff ourselves up as if we’d say, “God loves me more!” smugly to an unbeliever. That would be sinful and reveals we don’t understand grace. The proper reaction to God’s covenantal love is worship. God loves us—not because of who we are, what we’ve done, or how much potential we have. He loves us because He loves us. Though there’s nothing lovely about us, He chose to love us regardless.