“…God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” —1 Timothy 2:3-4
I enjoy watching basketball and, like most fans, I have a favorite team. If the Chicago Bulls are in the game, I root for them to win, no matter what. But I also like watching the NBA Playoffs and, in recent years, the Bulls have been participants in very few playoff games. When I watch games that don’t include my team, I still tend to root for someone. But I’m not from any of those other cities, so how do I choose who to root for?
This decision involves a complex series of calculations—in theory. In reality, most of the time I just pick which player or team I really don’t want to see victorious, and I root for the other team. It’s not so much that I’m rooting for someone as it is that I’m rooting against someone else.
There’s more of this in life than we usually care to admit. In recent years, social science research has suggested the strong influence of negative partisanship in Americans’ political views. That is, we’re often driven at least as much by disliking the other side as we are by liking our own. In all sorts of areas, our minds incorrectly default to zero sum thinking, the idea that anything another person gets is by definition something taken from me. Even though the whole value of free markets is that they’re positive-sum, we have trouble remembering that others don’t need to fail in order for us to succeed.
It’s important, then, to pause and notice how different this is from the way God views the world. God’s very act of creation was positive-sum: God created out of nothing something that previously didn’t exist. In pure, overflowing love, God created all that there is.
In the act of salvation, God again gave out of his pure, overflowing love. His gift of himself was more than enough. And it was done precisely so that those of us who were far off from God might be included. God acted in order to draw his enemies close to him, to forgive them, to give them new life—to give us new life.
We have a God whose heart longs for every person to experience real, true, overflowing, eternal life. May we, as God’s beloved children, reflect the heart of our Father in Heaven. Amen.