THE answer is both. God’s love is both inclusive and exclusive. It’s not an either-or affair.
That God’s love is universal and inclusive can easily be shown by the fact that he sent his only Son to us to save us. Because of this, St. Paul said that Christ “wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim 2,4)
Christ himself commanded us that we love everyone as attested in his teaching about loving even our enemies, looking for the lost sheep and the lost coin, and welcoming the prodigal son.
He showed this love in deeds by fraternizing with sinners that ‘scandalized’ the self-righteous Pharisees and scribes of that time, and finally by assuming all our sins by offering his life on the cross. He commanded us to love everyone as he himself has loved us.
We are also told that his compassion and mercy is forever and for all. One psalm says: “He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities,” (Ps 103,10) a very comforting and reassuring truth of our faith. He is always slow to anger and quick to forgive. In fact, Christ told us that we forgive offenders not only seven times but seventy times seven, meaning always.
But his love is also exclusive and very discriminating. This can be shown in that gospel parable of the wedding feast where the conclusion is that “many are called but few are chosen.” (Mt 22,14)
Of course, this conclusion was made after the fact that the king who prepared that wedding feast for his son invited everyone to it. The condition was that at least those who would go should be properly attired, a reference to the part we have to do to deserve God’s universal invitation.
This exclusive and very discriminating love of God is also reinforced when Christ said that we “enter through the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it.” (Mt 7,13-14)
For certain, the wisdom and the ways of God are too much for us to understand everything. As the Book of Isaiah would put it, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (55,9)
But this much we can say about this apparent contradiction in God’s love for us. God loves us all. He does not hate anyone, and does not predestine anyone to fall into perdition. But he wants us to correspond to his love as fully as he himself fully loves us.
That’s why Christ said as the new and the most perfect commandment that summarizes all the other commandments given previously that we have to love one another as he himself has loved us.
God in Christ gives himself completely to us. We also have to give ourselves completely to him, and all this done with utmost freedom, not with some coercion or pressure.
It’s like a 100%-100% proposition in the sense that God’s love for us is 100% and our love for him should also be 100%. It’s not an 80-20 affair, nor 90-10. It’s 100-100!
This means that the 100% we are supposed to give is not a 100% exclusive of God’s 100%. Rather, it is a 100% that reflects and channels God’s 100%. It’s a 100% that is homogeneous, not heterogeneous, to the 100% of God.
In short, this 100%-!00% proposition we are talking about expresses in some way our total identification with God through Christ in the Holy Spirit.
That’s when we can say that God’s love for us is both inclusive and exclusive!