Imagine that God doesn’t love you.
No, I mean really. Imagine it. Take a minute, but not too much more than that, to think about what it would feel like if God didn’t love you.
I bet you’ve never heard this before, especially from someone who normally pleads with people to know that he does love them (which, of course, he does)! I know it doesn’t sound particularly edifying and I admit it isn’t ordinarily the best use of your imagination. We’re usually encouraged to meditate on the opposite; that’s why you’ll have to flex your imagining muscles to do this. But consider the possible benefit of momentarily envisioning what is not true in order to assess how much you genuinely believe what is.
Should you be willing to go along with my quirky experiment, I suggest that you identify and temporarily feel the feelings that go along with imagining a God who doesn’t love you. If you don’t feel anything different than you normally feel, consider what condition this might indicate. It could be a sign that your default is to think that God actually doesn’t think much of you. You get the logic, right? If it’s no stretch for you to imagine him as unloving in general or that he loves other people, but not you, the results of my bizarre exercise might signify that one or the other of these is how you actually believe. I say, “actually believe,” because our emotions don’t usually follow what we say we believe or even what we think we believe but what we truly believe.
Can you see that there’s no appreciable difference between your emotional disposition to God actually not loving you and you believing that he doesn’t? If, in actuality, he doesn’t love you (but loves others) it would feel the same as you believing this were so. Make sense? So believing, as long as we’re talking about actual believing and not what we think we believe, has something to do with feeling, at least on some level.
It follows that if believing affects our feeling, though – since emotions can be quite fickle – the feeling may be intermittent, it will also, and much more importantly, affect our behaving. Follow? What I mean is, if you genuinely believe God loves you, whether or not you enjoy the warm and glad feelings that normally attend the believing, you’ll tend to behave in such a way that reflects what you believe. Children whose parents demonstrably love them have a better chance of acting more loveable than those who are not so loved. Duh! Right?
Since, as far as I know I don’t have many atheist, deist, or pantheist readers, you probably, at the very least, have a belief system that includes a personal loving God. Whether or not what you think you believe is what you actually believe, if pressed, you would say that there is a God, he’s a loving God in general, and he loves you in particular. But think about the large percentage of people who either don’t believe in a personal God or though they believe in one, they’re not at all convinced that he actually loves them. He’s either an impersonal universal force who is obviously incapable of any sort of feeling one way or the other or he’s a God who is capable of loving but doesn’t include them in the circle of those he loves.
What would we have them imagine? That he is real, that he is personal and capable of loving, does love people in general, and loves them in particular. Yes?
So, what role do we have in making a case for a God like that?
Well, we should be armed with some Bible verses to that effect, at barest minimum John 3:16, and for the more biblically clued-up, Romans 5:8. OK, that’s a start, but just a start.
Umm, we should love each other like Jesus told us to. Christians scrapping with each other is the worst advertisement for God and no way to convince people that he loves them.
In addition to loving each other we should love them and thereby give them a palpable sample of the way God loves them. And it’s important that our love be more than just good feelings and sappy statements. It really has to be exhibited by random and inconvenient actions. Now we’re getting closer to a credible and convincing argument for the existence of a loving God.
What else is there?
I propose that, in addition to all of the above, we believe what we believe about God loving us and that act like we believe it. It’s hard to convince someone of something that we ourselves aren’t convinced of. It’s difficult to sell a product that we don’t use. If you really believe that your Creator loves you, in actuality not just in the abstract, you’ll tend to exude something in your interactions with others, something that gives it away.
Sure, it will show up in the way you act, your manner of life, and the choices you make. If you know God loves you, you won’t be a cheat, a thief, or a wise a**. But I’m talking about something other than that, something more visceral. And what is more visceral to you might be more visible to them. I’m saying that when you know in your knower that you are fervidly loved by God it will pour out your pours. When you talk about him, you’ll sound like a newly a smitten lover who wants the world to know it. People will want to meet the One about whose stubborn love you so shamelessly boast!
This is no evangelistic tactic, but the best use of your biblically informed imagination receptive to the rationally impossible.
So, for your own sake and the sake of others, imagine that God does absolutely love you and everyone you hope will imagine it too.
- On a scale of 1 to 10, how clear of a revelation do you have that God loves you?
- How did it feel when you briefly imagined he didn’t?
- Imagine: that’s how some people feel all the time!
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