There is a sense in which God loves everyone in the whole world (John 3:16; 1 John 2:2; Romans 5:8). This love is not conditional—it is rooted in God’s character and based on the fact that He is a God of love (1 John 4:8, 16). God’s love for everyone could be thought of as His “merciful love,” since it results in the fact that God does not immediately punish people for their sins (Romans 3:23; 6:23). “Your Father in heaven . . . causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45). This is another example of God’s love for everyone—His merciful love, His benevolence extended to everyone, not just to Christians.
God’s merciful love for the world is also manifested in that God gives people the opportunity to repent: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise. . . . Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). God’s unconditional love is related to His general call to salvation and what is often called His permissive or perfect will—that aspect of God’s will that reveals His attitude and defines what is pleasing to Him.
However, God’s love for everyone does not mean that everyone will be saved (see Matthew 25:46). God will not ignore sin, for He is a God of justice (2 Thessalonians 1:6). Sin cannot go unpunished forever (Romans 3:25–26). If God simply disregarded sin and allowed it to continue to wreak havoc in creation forever, then He would not be love. To ignore God’s merciful love, to reject Christ, or to deny the Savior who bought us (2 Peter 2:1) is to subject ourselves to God’s wrath for eternity (Romans 1:18), not His love.
The love of God that justifies sinners is not extended to everyone, only to those who have faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1). The love of God that brings people into intimacy with Himself is not extended to everyone, only to those who love the Son of God (John 14:21). This love could be thought of as God’s “covenant love,” and it is conditional, given only to those who place their faith in Jesus for salvation (John 3:36). Those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ are loved unconditionally, securely, forever.
Does God love everyone? Yes, He shows mercy and kindness to all. Does God love Christians more than He loves non-Christians? No, not in regards to His merciful love. Does God love Christians in a different way than He loves non-Christians? Yes; because believers have exercised faith in God’s Son, they are saved. God has a unique relationship with Christians in that only Christians have forgiveness based on God’s eternal grace. The unconditional, merciful love God has for everyone should bring us to faith, receiving with gratefulness the conditional, covenant love He grants those who receive Jesus Christ as Savior.