How bad does a person have to be before I decide that even God could not love them?
In your mind, line up Saddam Hussein, Adolf Hitler, Osama Bin Laden, and throw in some anonymous child molesters, rapists, serial killers, and parents who torture their own children. Don’t forget the woman who sold her baby for her next hit of crack. And let's include the two guys who abducted and raped a teen girl, then chopped off her hands with an axe and left her to die. Imagine they have never expressed a single regret for what they have done. In some cases, the crimes that horrify us may be their proudest achievements.
As they step up to be judged, it seems simple to most of us: a bullet, a deadly syringe or prison for life are clearly merited. Some may struggle a bit more with what punishment is appropriate. Sadly, such judgments must be made in this world. We agree on certain activities as being criminal behavior. And we agree that it is appropriate to punish criminals, although we may disagree on what that punishment should be.
Here is what hits me so hard that I feel as though I may vomit: God has made it clear that he wants me to love the sorts of people I have described. I am commanded by God to love my enemies, my neighbors, and those who persecute me. I am called to become more like Christ. I can despise the sin, but I am to love the sinner.
There is part of me that desperately wants to have an exception clause for people that have done things as heinous as the people I asked you to mentally line up. I am aware of that same part of me wanting to make exceptions for people who have hurt me more personally. Their crimes don’t have to be nearly as horrific as those that the line up committed. They need not be crimes at all. It can be enough if I feel I have been wronged. It can be enough that they wound the very pride that I have asked God to free me of.
There have been times when I have felt that God asks too much when he asks me to love someone. There have also been times when I felt it was impossible that God would still love me.
Those are lies. God does not ask too much of me. I ask too little of him. I must ask him, in faith, for the ability to love others. And God will always love me. God is love. God is infinite. How foolish to think that there is anything I could do that would have the power to negate his very essence.
I thank God for who he is. I thank God for calling me to be more like him. I thank God for loving me.