Note: I wrote this post a few years ago, but the message rang true for me today during an interview with Greg Bullen of WMPC.org. I addressed some of the issues in this post during the interview. I thought I would share the post again. I’m discovering how much people want to understand who I maintained my faith during the years of abuse. This post answers some of those questions.
“How could God love the family members who hurt me?”
As I struggled to comprehend how God could love me, I struggled with an equally troubling question, “How could God love the family members who hurt me?” Such questions are common among women who experienced abuse as children.
For many years I simply could not understand why God did not stop my family’s abuse. I was angry at God, yet never lost hope that someday I would understand. I wish someone would have pointed me to St. Thomas when I was overwhelmed with anger and guilt. Now, do not misunderstand, I eventually forgave and moved on. However, I think St. Thomas’ argument about the basic concepts of ‘being’, ‘good’ and how He views sin may shed new light to help women who struggle with how God’s love extends to their abusers.
We are beings created in God’s image and hold a place higher than every other creature.
The initial question is: Does God love all things equally? The answer is no. When you consider all the things God created, He definitely has a hierarchy. He loves humanity more than animals or rocks or trees. Why, you may ask, because humanity is rational and created in His image. We are second only to the love God has for Christ. We are beings created in God’s image and hold a place higher than every other creature. God came to earth as a man, not a rock or a tree. He did not come as a dog or a cat but as a man.
How does this affect a survivor that questions God’s love for their abuser? First, as we determined in Part I, God loves all things. Secondly, He loves humanity more than other things because we are beings, not things. As I stated in Part I, we know that every being that God creates is good just because God creates it out of His perfect goodness. Based on the definition of ‘being’ in the glossary of St. Thomas’s Shorter Summa, being means “that which is, whether actual or potential and whether in the mind (a ‘being of reason’) or in objective reality (a ‘being in nature’).” In other words, a being exists as an entity that has qualities and potential.
What changes is God’s love of our actions and choices, which affects our relationship with Him.
What happens after creation does not change the fact that God created beings that are good beings. Even a being who makes choices that lead to evil are still beings, which exist no matter what choices they make. God’s love for that being that He wills good to does not change. What changes is God’s love of our actions and choices, which affects our relationship with Him. No matter what, the good being still exists. God still considers the creation good. He still loves the being (person) that He created.
However, as C.S. Lewis describes it in Mere Christianity with each choice we make, we either become more a heavenly creature or a more hellish creature. If we think of it as two aspects, the person, and the choices that change the relationship, we might understand the concept better. The person(being) is always loved because God created us. However, the choices we make either bring us closer to God or move us farther away.
God knows the potential of each person and wants us to receive the fullness of the good that He desires for us. He desires this for all His creation including abusers. He loves them because He created them and they exist, but He does not love what they do. The more they sin, the more they lose the humanity God created in them. Sin decreases their ability to experience the fullness of life and removes their desire to know God.
In all of this, God loves them as the being that He created. When they yield to evil, He cannot interact with them because evil does not come from God. While this explanation may seem too rational for some survivors, for me, it clarifies how God could love those who abused me. Knowing that God loves all His creation, but not their sin makes sense to me. When I combine that knowledge with faith, I understand that even when I feel ill-equipped to show love to those, I care about, I can ask Him to help me love them. He will empower me with His strength. He will be there. Perhaps understanding that God loves all things and that we are second only to Christ in His hierarchy will help you accept God’s love and the fullness that He desires for you. Perhaps you can fully comprehend John’s statement, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God, and so we are.”
 Peter Kreeft, A Shorter Summa: The Essential Philosophical Passages of St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica ; Edited and Explained (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993), 86.
 Ibid, 28.
 Lewis, Mere Christianity, 86.
 Kreeft, 85.
 I John 3:1-3.