This is a common refrain from those who cannot reconcile the two statements that God is love and that He will send people to hell.
So how can they be reconciled?
Suppose you are driving down the highway and you are speeding. A police officer pulls you over and you are clearly guilty of driving over the speed limit. The police officer has two obvious options.
1. The officer decides to let you go with no ticket.
2. The officer gives you a ticket.
If the officer decides to not give you a ticket, he is being loving/merciful. You have broken the law but the required penalty was not exacted.
If the officer gives you a ticket, he is being just. You have broken the law and the required penalty was exacted.
But what if there was a third option?
3. The officer gives you a ticket and then the officer pulls money out of his wallet and gives you the amount required to pay the ticket.
The only catch is that you have sign the ticket, admitting your guilt and then accept the money. If the police officer offers you the money to pay the ticket and you refuse to admit your guilt and don’t take it, the penalty is still due.
As you can probably guess, the police officer represents God and the driver is us. God IS love but God is also just. Letting us go without the ticket would violate His justice. He cannot do that.
Simply exacting the penalty and walking away would violate His love. He cannot do that.
So instead, He exacts the penalty through the death of His innocent Son and gives us all the opportunity to escape the penalty we clearly deserve and in doing so, maintains both His justice and His love.
Grace is the bridge between God’s love and God’s justice.
And that’s how God, who is love, can send people to hell. Because He gave you every opportunity to avoid that fate at great cost to Himself.
You, like me, have broken the law and there is a penalty due. The question is: will you admit your guilt and accept Jesus’ death as the payment due for your transgression or will you insist you weren’t doing anything wrong to begin with? Please don’t let your pride prevent you from accepting such a precious and costly gift that will literally save your life and bring joy everlasting.
Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you are saved through faith, not of works, lest any man should boast.