We claim to find comfort in the fact that God is love, as the apostle John put it. We pine after him. We talk of him incessantly. We spend centuries waiting for him. We prepare for his coming by building grand religious edifices. But when this God who is love comes, we, like the grand inquisitor, imprison, interrogate, and then kill him. That’s why Christ’s compassionate acts could draw great crowds that in the next moment would turn and lunge at him with bared fangs, like a startled dog or provoked bear (Matt. 21:9; 27:20ff.; cf. Prov. 17:12). Every one of us does this, including the author of “The Grand Inquisitor.” The story is powerful because it points to something deep in all of our hearts—a hatred not just for God but for his love!
What people fail to realize is that true love—God’s love—simultaneously attracts and repels all of us. It’s a thing of beauty and a thing of gross offense to the fallen heart. That’s why Jesus is the bad guy, at least in our minds. Gaze upon the love of God from one angle, and it will appear as the most resplendent thing in all the universe. But walk a few yards and look up again, and you will find that your lip snarls, your fists clench, and your heart becomes morally offended. It’s the same thing you’re looking at—God’s love. You’re just seeing it from a different angle.…
Christ’s love, though beautiful to the natural man by common grace, also offends him (see 1 Cor. 2:14). We like all the talk of compassion and caring for the downtrodden. Our eyes sometimes weep over acts of self-sacrifice by a mother, a brother, a friend, or a lover. Still, there’s something deeper about God’s love that offends our natural, unregenerate eyes.
Jonathan Leeman, The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love, p. 79