-- D.A. Carson, The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God
What every believer in every age is challenged to do is resist the innate compulsion to flatten out the expansive love of God. His lovingkindness is everlasting. God is in fact love. We then rush headlong into sentimental distortions, self-centered appropriations, assuming that to know simply that God is love is to know simply what this love is like. "Love demands freedom," we want to say.
Love demands giving the loved what he or she wants. And by this, hell is maintained: a la Lewis, the doors are locked from the inside, yes?
No. If my daughter is unaware of the Mack truck bearing down on her, or she is aware that putting her finger in a light socket will electrocute her but she wants to do it anyway, do I love her if I am able to intervene but defer to her freedom? Or am I loving to tackle her out of the truck's way, to slap her hand away from the socket?
Perhaps the latter, and since God loves everyone, it means he will some day tackle everyone, including the unrepentant and dead haters of God, out of the way. But this not only fails to maintain hell, it fails to maintain justice. Is the alternative now that God does not love everyone?
Or maybe the reality is a love more multifaceted than we can understand with finite, fallen minds. Maybe the reality is that the God of the Bible is as transcendent as he is immanent, that his ways are inscrutable, that his love is glorious and astonishing precisely because it is too wonderful for us. Maybe the heights and breadths of God's love do not refer merely to its size but its complexity.
In the hymn "O Love That Will Not Let Me Go," we sing of the "ocean depths" of God's love. It is deep like the ocean, and not just in fathoms and leagues, but in diversity and complexity. There are clear shallows to play in and opaque depths of mystery. There are hidden places in the ocean, places we will never see, places too deep for us to go. There are things about the ocean depths small children can understand, things marine biologists still haven't figured out, and things nobody will ever discover to even have the opportunity to scrutinize.
And then, since we are alleged people of the Book, we know that the unfathomable oceans of God's love do not exist in a vacuum, hermetically sealed off from all the other "things" God is and God does. God's oceanic love occupies space in the perfect balance of the infinite universe of all his attributes.
It is a sad irony, then, that the ever-fashionable impulse to do justice to the depths of God's love amount to a very dramatic exercise in one-dimensionalism. This is polyhedronal stuff, man. Woe to the flatteners of what is hyperspatial, multi-dimensional, intra-Trinitarian, eternal in ways awesomer than "one year after another."
We can feel the weight of this inscrutable awesomeness in Paul's prayer in Ephesians 3:14-19:
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.We may know a love that is beyond our knowing. (We are given the amount we need in the cross of Christ, itself a comprehensible prelude to incomprehensible "subsequent glories"). But we will need the strength of Spiritual power in our insidest insides to scratch the surface of this comprehension. We won't even come close with our cliches and sentimentality.