I was scrolling through Helium.com for topics to write on (for them) when I came across one with the title "How Could a Loving God Send People to Hell?". I'll be honest, my first thought was something like 'This again? Really?' I struggle to see the difficulty in believing that God can be both eternal love and yet a singular, almighty judge at the same time.
Even so, this question shows up so often that we may, as Christians, identify it as one of the single biggest roadblocks between the salvation of some and their eternal damnation. Let me explain; a pastor once preached a sermon on praying for soul-winning wisdom. He posited that we are not to simply bounce the Gospel off a person, but to go prepared, having asked the Lord to show us what one issue really stood between them and God. Not being able to understand God's role in the universe as loving and yet creator and judge is one issue that stands in the way of oh, so many souls.
This issue comes up so often you must have heard it before. How could God be love and still: send people to hell, allow suffering in the world, allow children/babies to be hurt or killed, not fix famine or war in third-world countries... the list goes on and on. The world clearly has a definition of what a loving God must be.
The many variations all boil down to one thing. In the eyes of the world if God is love then He cannot, must not be anything else at all, otherwise His claim to be the unending love is rendered invalid. The true issue before people carrying that view of God is this: they apply to Him a world-view of love, having no way to know or understand God's own definition or plan. That said, none of us can truly know the length, breadth or depth of God's love, but through the Bible we can find a more accurate understanding of the role it plays.
For instance, God's love falls second to His deity. The Christian must understand that we serve a loving God. That word 'serve' is a reminder that God is first and foremost a figure of authority. His love is a gift, an offering. Were the Lord to be open to all things, accepting of all things and have no existing definition of right and wrong, He would be simply that power which created us and ceased to care or be involved. Because He does care, He set forth rules and boundaries. He did not do this out of anger or hatred, but out of love.
Consider the mother and father, and the position they hold over their children. It is initially a position of absolute responsibility, and yet (ideally) one of unconditional love as well. As part of that careful cherishing, the parents create an environment ripe with boundaries and rules. Electrical outlets, trash cans, pens, knives, tools... many things must not be touched or played with by the little person growing in this environment. Why not? The loving parent does not wish harm on their child. These measures are there for protection.
Also consider the role of parents after you grow and leave home. They may offer advice and loving support, but they cannot influence with 100% certainty what choices you make or how you ultimately end up living out your own adulthood.
If the place of God in the eyes of the world is restricted to being one of only love, it clashes greatly with a world full of the evil intents and actions of man. It also clashes with their other absolute thought about God: that He must butt out and accept them into Heaven no matter what their lives contain. They want a very contradictory thing; a God who will undo the evil and hurtful things in the world, but otherwise will not monitor, judge or condemn us at all. It simply may not be had both ways. A God who can impose His will in Dar fur to bring healing, for example, has equal and every right to impose His will on your life without question.
What the people who ask these questions need to understand is the parent/child relationship that God has with all of us. He did not create the world and cease to care. In order to be a loving God, He must not be dictator, so while He has lain forth guidelines and rules in the Bible with a clear outline of right and wrong, He has also gifted us free will. Each person in each part of the world, no matter how remote, has control over his and her own decisions and actions. These decisions and actions ripple through the world, affecting our fellow man whether we like it or not.
When we ask the Lord into our hearts and offer ourselves to willingly serve Him for the rest of our lives, we are surrendering to His fatherhood as well as to His Godhood. We become actively obedient children, understanding that in the big picture God has what is best in mind for us if we will be the second half of a well-kept parent/child relationship. We still have free will, but it is humbled and surrendered to the will of God, which we seek fervently through prayer and study of the Scriptures.
The whole question of a loving God who doesn't intervene comes down to one thing. It is not God's lack of love in the world that allows such evil; it is the free will of men who choose not to be guided in grace by a Heavenly Father.
The answer to 'how can a loving God send a person to hell' is found more in the word God than the word loving. He is first and foremost a figure of authority. He created the heavens, the earth and hell... hell having been created initially only for the devil and his angels, not for us. Unfortunately the Bible says that "hell hath enlarged herself without measure". God does not send us to hell; we choose it for ourselves in rejecting Him, and hell is growing all by itself every day in order to accommodate the many, many souls.
The next time you see suffering that breaks your heart and defies all reason, do not ask why God allows it. Instead, humble your heart before Him in prayer, asking Him what change you can bring to this world through His grace and for His glory.