We all have heard people say, “God loves you unconditionally.” It’s a cliché that sounds sweet to our ears and comforting to our hearts. But is this biblically accurate? The Bible says, “The Lord has made everything for his own purposes, even the wicked for a day of disaster” (Prov. 16:4). The psalmist wrote, “The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence” (Ps. 11:5). “God is an honest judge. He is angry with the wicked every day” (Ps. 7:11). So, how can we say that God loves all, including the wicked, without causing violence to His nature? Because God is loving and good by nature, He shows His benevolent love toward His creation, including people. Theologians call this aspect of God’s grace “common grace (gratia communis).” The Bible says, “The Lord is good to everyone. He showers compassion on all his creation” (Ps. 145:9). “He gives His sunlight to both the evil and the good, and He sends rain on the just and the unjust alike” (Matt. 5:45). The Lord is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked (Luke 6:35). In this sense, God loves all people. But God’s common grace or love of benevolence differs from His “special grace (gratia particularis)” bestowed on His redeemed. “For the Lord corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights” (Prov. 3:12). Jesus told His disciples: “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love” (John 15:9 NKJV).
God’s special love for His redeemed is called “complacent love.” The word “complacent” (Latin complacentem) does not mean lazy, arrogant, or not caring; it means “very pleasing” or “pleased with oneself, self-satisfied.” So, at its root, complacent love refers to God’s delight in His Son. God is wholly pleased with and takes utmost delight in His Son, Jesus Christ (Isa. 42:1; Matt. 3:17). As a result, all who are in Christ become the object of His special love (Ps. 37:23; Prov.11:20; 15:8), which He does not have for the rest of humanity. God says to His redeemed, the Israel of God, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, with lovingkindness, I have drawn you” (Jer. 31:3 NKJV).