By Morgan Cates
The Christian life is a call to love. When Jesus was being questioned by the Pharisees, He told them that the greatest commandment is to, “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Matthew 22:38),” and the second greatest commandment is to, “love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39).” Love God and love people. As a faithful Christian, you should be following these two commands. However, we have a subconscious understanding within our obedience to these commandments. You may indeed love all people, but you love your significant other in a different manner. If you are single, then you love your best friend with a particular affinity as compared to a stranger, although you love that stranger and care for their soul. God is the same way.
God created humanity distinct from the rest of Creation. Humanity is the embodied image of Yahweh, the mediator between God and nature. He has a general love for every single creature that is in His image. However, God has a particular love for His Church. Oftentimes people are offended when they hear that God actually loves certain people more than others, and they think that the God they have envisioned in their head could never do such a thing. I would like to take an unorthodox approach in answering the objection that Jesus could never play favorites with humans. In Ephesians 5 Paul charges husbands to, “love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her”(Ephesians 5:25). God’s Word shows the distinction of Christ’s love for the Church. Just before Paul delivers this command to husbands, he also gives a command of equal importance to wives, “submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church”(Ephesians 5:22-23). This verse is often hated by many in our culture because of the seemingly misogynistic implications behind it. However, that limitation comes from reading this verse through a westernized English analysis. When we hear the word, “head,” we naturally think of the formation of a human body where the head is at the top, but that is not what the apostle Paul is talking about. Paul uses the word ἀρχή (arche) here. In this context, the word arche is a military term referring to the most dangerous position in a triangular battle formation. The arche was at the head of the triangle, or the front of the triangle, and they were always the most likely person to die. This is how Paul calls husbands to lead because this is how Christ leads His people. In light of that, it makes perfect sense that God has a particular love only for Christians that is distinct from the rest of humanity, because He paid a high price for their lives.
John Piper says it like this, “He is like a husband waiting for his wife at the airport, watching as each person disembarks from the plane. When she appears, he knows her, he recognizes her features, he sees in her eyes a happy reflection of his own love. He delights in her. She is the only one he embraces.” This is not to say in the slightest that God hates everyone who is not a part of the Church. God has what we call, “common grace,” that extends to all people. This is why the majority of the richest people on earth are not believers, because our Lord extends His common grace to everyone who is made in His image. This also explains why during Jesus’s ministry the vast majority of people that He healed did not place their faith in Him. However, for those who did not repent and believe did not get to experience the vastness of His special love. Christ did not atone for all, He atoned specifically for His Church. Those who acknowledge the truth and have saving faith in Him. Those are the people that the Lord has a propinquity for. God loves all His Creation, but He has a special place for His people.