Does God love us all differently? I always thought He loves us all equally, but what about Scriptures like “Jacob I have loved, Esau I hated” and how John was the beloved disciple? Does God love some of us more or less than others?
Great question! It would seem that certain verses would indeed support the idea that while God does love everyone (John 3:16–“God so loved the world. . .”), there are also degrees of love and favor. In Deuteronomy 7:6 Moses tells the children of Israel, “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, His treasured possession.” Drawing on several Old Testament passages, Peter makes a similar proclamation to the Church in 1 Peter 2:9: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession.”
And then there are individuals, as you have pointed out. In Malachi 1:2-3, God does say, “Jacob I have loved, Esau I hated.” It’s important to understand what God means here, because God talks about hating individuals in the Old Testament, and the Lord Jesus calls us to hate our families in the New (Luke 14:26). These biblical uses of hate means “to love less.” [For a compelling argument and explanation, see this article on Bible.org, “How To Hate Your Wife” at https://bible.org/seriespage/49-how-hate-your-wife-luke-1425-35.]
John does describe himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” but do note that Jesus never calls him that. Jesus loved all His disciples. John reveled in being loved by Jesus, and gave himself that anointed description, a description we can all ascribe to ourselves. It is a stunning light bulb moment when a believer realizes, “Wow! I too am a disciple whom Jesus loves!”
In Jesus’ high priestly prayer in John 17, He tells the Father that He has “loved them [the disciples], even as You have loved Me” (23). The idea that the Father loves the Church as much as, and in the same way as He loves the Son is amazing. I can find no such statement about unbelievers. I think that God’s love for all people is outrageously powerful and huge, but there seems to be a special component to the relationship between God and His people. Maybe that’s because there IS an actual relationship. . .?!
One more thing. Acts 10:34 says that “God is no respecter of persons,” but this does not mean he loves everyone equally. It means (and this is made clearer by checking the origin of the Greek word for “respecter”) that God is not impressed by anyone’s position, wealth, power or beauty. These things do not affect the way He judges with fairness and justice, the way a human judge can be “a respecter of persons.
Hope you find this helpful.
© 2009 Probe Ministries
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Sue Bohlin is an associate speaker/writer and webmistress for Probe Ministries. She attended the University of Illinois, and has been a Bible teacher and conference speaker for over 40 years. She is a frequent speaker for MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers) and Stonecroft Ministries (Christian Women's Connections), and serves on the board of Living Hope Ministries, a Christ-centered outreach to those dealing with unwanted homosexuality. Sue is on the Bible.org Women's Leadership Team and is a regular contributor to Bible.org's Engage Blog. In addition to being a professional calligrapher, she is the wife of Probe's Dr. Ray Bohlin and the mother of their two grown sons. Her personal website is suebohlin.com.
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