When people say “God is both love and just” (usually when hell, or predestination vs. free will, is the topic) they make love and forgiveness look unjust, and they make justice look unloving and unforgiving. But true love is just, and true justice is loving—they really are synonymous. This is on my mind as I read White’s “The Potter’s Freedom” (2000) and compare it to Geisler’s “Chosen but Free” (2001). I’m also debating whether or not to add Rob Bell’s “Love Wins” to my long list of to-reads after just seeing him defend himself against the charge of universalism in his interview with Martin Bashir on MSNBC.
Jesus’ sacrifice, foreshadowed by the Old Testament sacrificial system, fully demonstrated that God forgives us and loves us despite our sins. We are not saved by good works or lost by works of sin.
Hell is the just-love consequence of our ultimately rejecting God’s unconditional love (grace), fully revealed in Jesus’ sacrifice. Without the alternative of hell, one is unjustly ‘forced’ to accept a loving relationship with God in Christ, but love (if just) must be a choice, there must be an alternative—hence, the just-love alternative of hell.
Only those who choose hell will know it, by knowingly rejecting God’s unconditional drawing through Christ’s demonstration and all that foreshadowed and foretold it and tells it still. Such rejection no more challenges God’s sovereignty than does any other sin—God knows and sustains the whole thing from beginning to end, including all of our free choices.
Acceptance of his unconditional love no more makes us our own saviors than would our acceptance of the rescuing, active, personal hand held out to save us from drowning. We can save someone without putting any conditions on them before we will save them, but they still have to want to be saved, and so God draws us to a point where we recognize we are drowning and that he can save us, but we must have the choice (he knows we will make, and which he sustains from eternity) to accept or reject his sovereign hand. If the choice is not ours, just-love is not possible.
Rather than randomly picking whom to “love” and whom to reject, we are to love ALL (even our enemies) justly, treating everyone as we would like to be treated, just as Christ did by example for believers while we were yet enemies of him, as well as for nonbelievers who knowingly choose the just-love alternative of hell. If he didn’t do that for them, if he doesn’t give them “equal opportunity” to accept or reject his unconditional love, then there is no alternative other than hell for them, which means they didn’t choose it and that they were (or will be) sent there unjustly, unlovingly, completely randomly (and that believers likewise will go to heaven unjustly, unlovingly, completely randomly)…and such a “God” is not good, is unworthy of the title.
Thank God he unconditionally loves everyone, died for everyone and draws everyone, or else does not hold responsible. [Note that this is not universalism, for he respects and sustains from eternity each individual’s acceptance/rejection.] ‘That’ (besides sustaining) is the example we have to follow. Just love.