When I’m not at work, I’m frequently sporting a t-shirt or hoodie that says “God is incredibly in love with you!” I think this is the main truth about God that people need to hear — mostly because it is the main truth about God! It’s certainly what is on my heart to tell people. But what puzzles me is this: many people seem to believe and receive this message warmly, but for a fairly high percentage of that group, that’s as far as it goes.
Most of us have had crushes on someone at some point in our lives in which the other person did not reciprocate those feelings, or at least didn’t respond in a way that would indicate a mutual affection. If that happened to you, how did that make you feel? I think I was hurt, sad, depressed — all stemming from feeling rejected. And of course, the relationship that might have developed did not.
How do you think God feels when he pours out his love, and yet is rejected? Whether it is a nice rejection (choosing not to respond with your heart and with your life) or an outright rejection or denial, rejection is still rejection. I think God is sad about it, just as most of us were when we experienced rejection. I think he is sad because he really desires to have an intimate relationship with each person — because he values the unique way each person is made and how each expresses himself or herself — and he values the interactions that he could have with them and they with him.
I also think God is sad because he knows that the ultimate destiny of those who reject him is eternity apart from him, and eternity apart from him is hell: figuratively and literally. God hates it when people choose that destiny for themselves. He hates it so much that he came up with a plan to keep people from that destiny. He sent his only son Jesus into the world to die so that he would be able to provide a way for us to be reconciled to God so that we could have the kind of intimacy with God we were made for, and so those who receive Jesus will escape.
But why do people not respond to God’s love? First of all, I think that some don’t respond because they have not yet perceived it. Even though God has created such beauty and wonder revealed in the earth and the starry skies (Romans 1:18-20), not all have perceived this as God speaking to them. And just as God has endowed each person with a conscience that speaks of a moral Creator (Romans 2:12-15), some fail to perceive God in that.
Therefore, it is important for those of us who know God and have responded to his love to be telling people about his love, and his desire for them to respond. We can even tell them about how his love was revealed in him sending his only son Jesus to die for us, so that those who believe and respond with their whole hearts will have abundant life now and evermore.
There are other reasons people don’t respond to God’s love. The Bible tells us that some people fail to respond because at the root of it, their deeds are evil, and they don’t want to come into the light (see for example John 3:19-21). It also tells us that others fail to respond because in the heart of it, they are ungrateful (Romans 1:21 and 1:28).
But what kind of response is God looking for anyway? He wants your heart. He wants you. The closest analogy is marriage. He wants you to be thoroughly committed to him, because he’s thoroughly committed to you. Today. Tomorrow. Forever.
We can talk to God throughout each day of our lives — and we can listen to God each day of our lives (Romans 8:5-9; Galatians 5:16-18; John 14:26). For most of us, learning to listen to God takes some practice, because he generally does not speak audibly, but in a “voice” — impressions if you will — that you hear in your spirit (which I think is best likened to saying that you hear God speak to you in your heart). He promised to live inside us (John 14:23). For those of you who want to learn more about hearing God’s voice, you can check out an article I wrote a few years ago, “How to Hear God’s Voice“.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention reading the Bible as an essential way of learning more about God and “hearing” his voice that has been written down. It is not that God dictated the Bible, but it is written by men who were led by that voice inside them. It is a good practice to read the Bible every day.
As a result of our conversations with God, we may start sensing how God might want us to use our time to show our love for him, by showing our love for others. Jesus even said that what we do for the weakest and most vulnerable, we do for him (Matthew 25:40). Not all of us have the same gifts, talents, and call. But as we walk with God, we sense how he has made us and how we can be our true selves while loving him and serving others.
In the end, I urge each reader: Don’t just receive God’s love, but respond to God’s love!