You’ve asked some interesting questions. Here are my answers:
- You asked if God’s love is the same for everyone. I think it would have to be, otherwise God would be playing favorites, and that would make Him an unjust God. However, there are two places in the Old Testament where it looks like God does play favorites, both of them in the book of Genesis. The first time is the story of Jacob and Esau. Esau and Jacob are the twin sons of Isaac and Rebekah, with Esau being older by a few minutes than Jacob. But before the two boys are born, God tells Rebekah that Esau will serve Jacob (see Genesis 25:23). While it could be that this apparent favoritism was God-ordained beforehand (see Romans 9:10-12), it seems to me that God could just as easily have been telling Rebekah things her two sons would do ahead of time, without any intentionality aforethought on God’s part. That possibility seems unlikely, given the passage in Romans 9, but I wanted to suggest it anyway.
The other story from the book of Genesis is at the end of the book when Jacob is about to die, so he speaks a blessing over each of his sons. But first he deals with Joseph and his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, whom Jacob elevates to the status of full sons with the rest of his sons, but as he’s praying for them, he gives the blessing of the first born to Ephraim, who is the younger of the two brothers. Joseph tries to correct his apparent mistake, but Jacob tells him that he’s done it on purpose (see Genesis 48:13-20). I don’t understand God’s purpose in allowing this example of favoritism. It doesn’t appear to have the same clearcut indicators of God acting in the story as was true in the story of Jacob and Esau. As well, the story of Jacob and Esau is mentioned in a number of places throughout the Old as well as the New Testaments (see Malachi 1:2; Romans 9:13; and Hebrews 12:16 for example), where the story of favoritism shown to Ephraim over Manasseh is only mentioned the one time when it actually happened.
You asked if we can expect God to love us the same as He loves Jesus. I think the answer to that is yes, because if He loved us less than He loved Jesus, then He wouldn’t have allowed Jesus to die for us. He wouldn’t have allowed Jesus to be a substitute for us, to take the punishment for our sin as He did. It seems to me an unfathomable mystery that God could love us as much as He loves His own Son, the second part of the Trinity, but incredibly, He does. I’ve heard it said that if there was only one person on earth, Jesus would still have gone to the cross and died for that one person. That speaks volumes about the inestimable worth of even one human being, much less the whole human race, each one of whom was created in God’s own image and after His likeness. I think the only answer possible here is absolutely, unequivocally, yes. God does love each one of us as much as He loves Jesus.
You asked how we are to fully comprehend the width, length, depth, and height of God’s love. I think that, since Ephesians 3:18-19 says that comprehending it goes beyond our knowledge, understanding God’s love cognitively would be much more difficult than grasping it experientially, but once His love has been appreciated experientially, it would be easier to understand cognitively. Even then, however, I think God intends the true fullness of His love for us to remain at least a little mysterious until we stand before Him. I Corinthians 13:9-10,12 talks about this:
For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away… For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.~ ESV.
And yet we have a number of clear descriptions in Scripture of what God’s love is like besides Ephesians 3:18-19. For example there’s I Corinthians 13:4-7,13 which speaks of the characteristics of unconditional love. And if you substitute the word “God” for the word “love”, as well as the appropriate pronouns, in verses 4 through 7 (because I John 4:8 says that God is love) then you’ll have a good picture of how God acts. To wit,
God is patient and kind. God is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. He does not demand His own way. He is not irritable, and He keeps no record of being wronged. 6 He does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 God never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance… Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. ~ NLT.
Unfortunately, the limitations of language keep us from fully comprehending the things of God, and I think this is especially true when it comes to understanding His all-encompassing love. English is particularly deficient in this respect. We English speakers use the word love to describe our feelings for everything from what we had for dinner (I just love that sushi!), to our footwear (I absolutely adore my new shoes!), to the way we feel about our spouse and our children (I love my wife with all my heart; my son means everything to me), when there’s no way we could feel as deeply about the food we eat or the clothes we wear as we do about the most meaningful relationships in our lives.
I hope I’ve answered your questions adequately, Helen, though I’m sure I could have done a better job. Also, there may have been some place where I said something in error, all unknowing. I have no illusions that I’m perfect, so if I made any errors, please don’t hesitate to let me know. Additionally, if what I’ve said generates any further questions, please feel free to ask.