I am wondering how Christians see God. I hear many Christians say God is love, but is also just. But I ask them, how can he be love if he is also just?

So two attributes God has given himself are love and just.

In the Old Testament, it is seen that God sets standards for his creation, and consequences: the wages of sin is death. This is God's just side.

But God also says he is love, and that he loves his creation. And he prophesies in Isaiah about salvation from the consequences he has set.

And we see in the new testament, the both the just side of God, and the love side of God be satisfied by the blood of Jesus Christ. The law was fulfilled by Jesus's blood, but also God's love was fulfilled by giving his son for creation.

But then a new law appears: The wages of not believing Jesus is the son of God is eternal torment in hell. How could a God who loves his creation allow them suffer so much?

How do Christians deal with this confliction that seems to come up? It seems to be quite obvious. Romans 8:38 says that nothing can separate humans from God's love, yet how can Paul say God loves them if they are burning in the hell God put them in? If God really is love, then, logically, he wouldn't let them burn there. He would love them too much to watch them sit in anguish for eternity.

From the Catholics I know, most believe that God is love, but logically I fail to see their conclusion in this? But if God instead is not love itself, but just has some love. He is much more just than he is love, then he could let them burn there, for justice prevails his love and allows the punishment to occur.

For someone who may not know the common knowledge of the children growing up in the church, it has occurred to me that it might be common knowledge that God is just first, love second, but from the Christians I know, it would surprise me if the Catholic church agreed with this.

And also, if God really loved creation, couldn't he just switch up the rules to allow his just side to be satisfied? And if he is love would he not forgive Satan also?

I know on this site I must declare what denomination I am targeting, but really I just want to know the logical process where one concludes that God is love, unless of course someone biblically verifies that God is just first, then love second (which I myself cannot find in the scriptures.) But if I must pick a denomination, I will choose Catholic because it seems that is the majority of this site.

This question arised from the verse 1 John 4:8: "He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love."

  • Now that you've clarified that you are looking for the view of Catholicism, this question can be reopened. Thanks for your patience! Jul 15, 2017 at 16:17
  • @Pythogen, did you spend any time in the military? If so, I may be able to offer an answer that you'll understand, if not I won't bother as Sola Gratia has put together a good answer. On a related note, presuming an "either or" situation strikes me as "trying to put God into a box" as a mode of thought. Jul 15, 2017 at 18:33

1 Answer 1


St. Thomas Aquinas (Catholic perspecitve) tells us that within God, all His 'attributes' have to be, within Himself, identical. Due to divine simplicity.

Here are my personal thoughts, as a Catholic, in contemplating these two sides of God: the just and the merciful.

I think the issue of the relationship between love and justice.

Firstly, love is to want to do what is good. Justice is to ensure that evil is not done, and that goods are encouraged or supported. Anything which offends or diminishes the morally good state of something or someone is evil and against justice.

Love wants good to be done; and evil not to be done. This means that it wants justice to be done—because justice is that which upholds good and punishes or diminishes evil. Justice being done is love being excercised,in other words.

But justice being a good in itself, and caused by love, implies a certain 'concession' of itself in certain cases. That is, if doing justice would offend the main goals of love, or the greater priorities thereof, then the punishment of justice might serve a purpose contrary to love. In this case, God delays or moves His justice elsewhere, which is called mercy. The example reason mercy is given might be that to give immediate justice might not result in the same love being shown, whereas delaying justice might foster a sense of gratefulness etc,and ultimate conversion.

The sole reason God forgives and does not condemn us all to Hell for any sin ("the wages of sin is death"—to sow sin is to reap Hell), is purely on the basis of the merits of Jesus Christ, who freely took our punishment upon Himself. He satisfied justice due to sin perfectly, and since He did not Himself need any merit, He freely gave us it as a gift. The gift of redemption.

It's for this reason also that if you deny the Son, you cut yourself off from the only source of mercy God can or will offer you! The residents of Hell sent themselves there by losing the fight with justice, who will always win, because it's good that it does. God states Himself that He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked but would have them turn from their wicked ways and live. Calvinist nonsense notwithstanding.

SO love and justice are one and the same within God, we simply describe soemthing like a back and forth motion in God as 'mercy' and 'justice'. But love is what is being achieved overall, and always without exception.

Psalm 136:1

Praise the Lord, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.

God's mercy endures forever, because He is love, and will always be love.

  • What I am taking from what you are saying, is that love is achieved through justice. If love is doing what is good, then love is achieved by justice because what justice does is good. However, If you could please elaborate a bit on how you came to the conclusion that love is doing what is good? From what I read and heard, I don't quite see that interpretation, could you explain it a bit for me?
    – Pythogen
    Jul 10, 2017 at 0:46
  • 1
    As I said, these are my personal thoughts. I think all we can do is conjecture from down here. God is the definition of good, objectively, so all He does, thinks etc, is what we call love. Because to act, for Him, is to love. He cannot do anything that is not out of love. To want to do good is to love yourself or someone else who will benefit from the loving act. The reason God is love is because everything stems from love: patience, correcting, reprimanding, charity, even justice etc.—to act without justice is to lack love. Jul 10, 2017 at 12:53

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