The Bible Makes it Clear
Most importantly, the Bible itself shows the type of relationship that God longs for with us. Many passages could be quoted to prove that point. Here are just a few of them, taken from the OT only, for reasons you can probably guess.
“The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)
“But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” (Psalm 86:15)
“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! 16 See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.” (Isaiah 49:15-16)
“How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings. 8 They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights. 9 For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.” (Psalm 36:7-9)
“Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)
“The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” (Jeremiah 31:3)
(In this written version, I will include a few of the many NT passages making the point.)
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-39)
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1)
“…God is love.” (1 John 4:8)
“We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:4-7)
“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17-19)
One of my favorite demonstrations of God’s love for us is found in Luke 15 in the account of the Prodigal Son. To really get the point, you have to understand that the father in the story represents God, and then you need to put yourself back into that cultural setting. When the younger son asked for his inheritance while his father was yet alive, that was not just disrespectful; it brought shame upon the father. Then the shame was compounded when the son started using his inheritance to live in open sin and rebellion. The older brother’s comments in the story show that bad news travels fast and everyone, including the father’s friends, likely knew of the disgraceful behavior of the younger son. But finally, the boy had enough of living in the pig pen and decided to come home. His expectations were in line with how the average father would have responded in the same situation. If he let a rebellious son come back at all, it would have been as a servant, an act designed to bring disgrace on the one who had disgraced him. There would have been nothing shown in their interactions suggesting a father/son relationship, at least not initially.
The returning son in the story understood the culture and what should happen in his case. But the father in the story was not of this earth; he was the heavenly Father. What did he do? Previously, as much as he loved the son, he did not go and try to talk him out of the pig pen. God will not violate the freedom of choice that he has given us, even when we use it badly. But this father was looking down the road constantly, hoping against hope that the boy would come to his senses and return home. When he spotted the boy walking hesitantly and ashamedly toward the house, the father was filled with compassion, not with the anger that a mere human father would have felt after being repeatedly shamed by his offspring. This Father then ran to greet him rather than waiting for the kid to come to him and humble himself before him as would normally have been expected. Someone wrote a book about this Bible account and entitled it, “Will God Run?” Obviously, the answer is yes—a thousand times, yes!
The boy had his repentance story well-rehearsed. It had three parts. He only got the first two parts out before being interrupted by the God of all grace. “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.’” From there, the celebration party was set in motion, and given who it was throwing the party, it would have been quite a party. But what we must not miss is that even before the runaway started confessing his repentance, before he got one word out, his father hugged and kissed him. What does this tell you about the kind of relationship God wants with you and me? A ton. He wants it to be a warm and fuzzy relationship, and any view of God that does not include this fact cannot be correct. But there is more—much, much more. The next segment reveals the most significant insight I had during my whole ordeal about the nature of God.