God loves Adolph Hitler. He loves him as much as he loves Mother Theresa. And as much as he loves you and me.
That this is mind-boggling and bordering on the offensive does not make it less true. And it should be observed that love does not preclude other emotions. I suspect that God rejoices in the selfless service of Mother Theresa. I suspect he weeps for the hatred of Hitler. I suspect he does a little rejoicing, a little weeping when he looks on my life and considers what I have done with it.
None of these, or any of the other reactions that God might have change His love, though. His love for us is something glorious. In the very best moments of my very best days, I come somewhere in the solar system of wrapping my brain around this with my own kids and my wife.
One of the reasons it is hard to get there is that this utterly unconditional love flies in the face of everything we experience from the first moment we leave the womb. Before we even have words, we begin to engage in these transactions with the people around us. When we eat the vegetables on our high chair tray, when we say “mommy” when we clean our room, complete our homework, save the company money… when we do these things we are rewarded with smiles, treats, deserts, good grades, pay check bonuses.
Because we are broken, and because we lack imagination, we come to see these things as love itself. We come to tie up our value in the things we provide for others. And the truth is, that there are positive sides to this. Because life is hard. If we contribute half as much to the world, somebody else will need to contribute twice as much, or someone else won’t get their needs met.
There is value in helping keep track of who provides value.
One of the greatest tragedies of this world, though, is that we lose sight of the fact that we have a worth that is so much more fundamental than the things we do.
God made mankind and he declared it good. He made you, and he made me, and he declared us good. He breathed his perfect breathe into us, placed the very reflection of himself in our very most basic essence. And this goodness is more basic to what we are than all the brokeness that came after.
If we– if I– could fill up with this most basic conviction: God loves us. Not for what we do. Not for what we have. Not for the choices we make, or the rules we follow, or the things we say… What sort of force would we unleash on the world?