Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The complexities of a love/hate relationship over dinner

It took a while, I know, but the waiting is over.  Here is the way I tackled the kindergarten inquisition of whether or not God loves Satan. And no, I didn't have an easy button.

A while back I shared with you all a question that was asked by our five year old son. God says we should love our enemies, does God love Satan?
I also told you about an email I sent to my wifey to try and equip her to answer the question.  Here is the email I sent
It's not as simple as black and white. God has the capacity to love and hate at the same time. Similar to how a child always has love for their parents even when we disappoint them. There is love and there is disappointment. Or between brothers, even when we are angry with one another we have love for one another. Furthermore, God has these same complexities but the most loving thing He can do is glorify Himself. He can glorify himself through the destruction of sin through condemnation in Hell and also through dying to ransom undeserving sinners. So, God all at once loves and hates Satan. He will both be saddened by the ultimate destruction of his creation (Satan) and pleased by the vindication of his holiness that the same destruction brings.
 As I said before, this email didn't get me off the hook.  In fact, my wife gave me a "I can't explain that to a five-year-old...I don't even get it" look.  Later, as we gathered around the dinner table, this question became the topic of conversation.  The dialogue went something like this.

do you love your brother?
does he make you mad sometimes?
yeah, lots of times (looks at brother)
do you still love him even when he makes you mad?
I guess, yeah, but not when I'm mad
what if he asks you to forgive him?  do you?
yes, of course
so your love for him is always there, even when you feel more mad than you feel love, right?
yeah, thats right (nodding)
what about daddy?  do you love daddy?
yes daddy I love you very much (nodding bigger)
and sometimes I make you mad, too.  right?
ummmm. (stops nodding, looks intently at his dinner plate)
its okay son.  I know I mess up sometimes,too.
yeah daddy, sometimes you make me a little mad (looks through the space between his thumb and forefinger, like he is squishing my head)
do you ever stop loving me?
no (shaking head)
even when you're mad at me?
even when I'm mad, I still love you.  I could never stop loving you daddy. (hugs me while climbing into my lap)
Well that is the way God loves.  Except God's love is a GOD sized love and your love is little boy sized.  Since the Bible says God IS love then that means He never stops loving because that is who he is.  The Bible also says he hates evildoers.  So, sometimes he is loving and hating a person at the same time.  That is how God is with Satan.  Love and hate all at the same time.  Does that make sense?
(leaves my arms and shrugs) Kinda, not really.
I know, it seems confusing.  Remember you said that you loved daddy even when I made you mad, right?
uh, huh (nodding again)
well, that is how it is with God, too.  Two things that seem to be opposite happening at the same time.  It's complex.
What does complex mean?  (head tilted)
Complex means that there are so many things going on it is hard to explain and understand.
Yeah, I don't really understand.  I know what you're saying but I still don't understand.  (looks back at food again)
Me neither son, me neither... but the Bible says that they are both true so they both must be true.  God loves Satan and hates Satan all at the same time.  I guess it will take all eternity to understand how complex God is.
yeah, that's gonna be AWESOME! (looks up with big eyes and does a fist pump)
 Well, I hope I don't mess up my little guys.  I want to give them the right answers but the truth is I don't understand it all.  Maybe it's best that way.  At least I don't steal all the wonder away from them with long and dry theological conclusions.  He asked a great question and I tried to help him understand as best I could.  In the end, I think my answer was adequate because God, in his little eyes, is still AWESOME and worth a fist pump.  I guess explaining how God's wrath is just as glorifying and loving as his grace will have to be a future dinner discussion.  For now I'll let my sons bask in the paradoxical complexities of our awesome God.


  1. Sounds like a great conversation. I imagine God was smiling as He eavesdropped in on that one. :)

  2. Well done Bobby. Great response to a good question.

  3. That was a great answer. And I especially love the way you wrote it; I felt like I was there. Keep up the good work, and give Isaac a special hug from me, please.

  4. Jon,

    I hope God is pleased with my meager attempts to bring divine truths to my children. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  5. Lisa,

    I'm glad it was helpful for you. I hope your conversation goes well as you attempt to answer this question for the one who asked you.

  6. Grandma,

    thanks for the encouragement. I always feel so inadequate when I'm faced with these mountains from munchkins. I guess that's a part of being a parent we're never really prepared, we just wing it.

  7. I love these kinds of conversations. Oh, they're never easy or comfortable, and I'm probably wrong more often than not. But, when I'm forced to explain what I believe to a child, then I'm also forced to think it through carefully and not hide anything with big theological terms.



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