Many people genuinely doubt God's love for all mankind and cite examples from the Old Testament to demonstrate how savage God appears to have been in the past, and therefore is likely to be in the future.
Of all the examples used, the destruction of the whole world's population, less eight people, during the flood at the time of Noah is the most common. How can God be a God of love and yet destroy everyone? How can God, who is love, wipe the earth clean of almost all human beings in one fell swoop?
These are reasonable questions which many people, including Christians, find difficult to answer in a satisfactory way.
If we look at God's dealings with mankind through the lens of love, rather than through the lens of anger and punishment and vengeance, we will see a different picture than many suppose.
You might hear a conversation between a person in authority and an alleged offender, or between a parent and a child, include words like, “I don't want you to say another word, you are in deep enough already.”
In movies or television dramas we might hear a lawyer or attorney advising clients in a similar way so as not to risk providing more evidence against themselves or painting themselves in a worse light.
Wise parents often advise their children to stay away from situations that would appeal to their weaknesses or make them susceptible to going astray.
People who are alcoholics are advised to not even have one alcoholic drink; people who are compulsive gamblers are advised to stay away from places where gambling happens; children who are more followers than leaders are advised to stay away from those who would have a detrimental influence on their lives.
It is wisdom and compassion that leads people to give this sort of advice to those they love.
Given that those of us who leave this planet at the end of our lives unreconciled to God will need to be judged and spend time in a correction facility at the end of the ages, it was kind and merciful of God to prematurely remove from the planet those of Noah's generation who had made the world corrupt and full of violence before they could do even worse and be in need of an even more extreme and painful makeover.
And where did they go? And what happened to them there? That's a wonderful story we will discuss in chapter 5. (If you've already caught a glimpse of the theme of this book, or you have peeked ahead, you will know that the result was a very good one - much better than they, or any of us, deserves.)
But for the moment those God destroyed were removed from the planet to prevent them making things worse for themselves or leaving them where they could not resist the temptation to continue in their sinful ways.
This “clearing of the earth” was not the doings of a savage, vengeful God; it was the action of a loving and merciful God towards those he loves, not unlike that of a loving parent caring for his or her wayward children.