Healthy Leaders


Love Comes First

Skye JethaniSkye Jethani

I once saw a bumper sticker that said: “JESUS LOVES YOU.” Beneath it in a smaller font was added: “Then again, He loves everybody.” While meant to be humorous, the sticker highlights an interesting dilemma. We want to be impressed and even overwhelmed by God’s love for us. It should inspire our worship and provoke our obedience, but can we still be motivated by His love if it is indiscriminate? If every player gets a trophy, is mine still special? If God loves everyone, am I still special?

That question reveals a subtle error in our thinking. If we are claiming God’s love as a way to elevate our value above that of others, then we have misunderstood the nature of divine love. Throughout the Bible we find God selecting people not because they are worthy of His love, but precisely because they are not. The fact that God loves a sinner like me makes Him special, it does not make me superior.

We fail to grasp this because the world has shaped us to think all love is conditional; that it must be earned. Therefore, when we hear, “God loves you,” our inclination is to believe it’s because we are more deserving than others. God’s love, however, is unlike the world’s.

Consider the Father’s love for Jesus. At the moment of His baptism in the Jordan River, the voice of the Father spoke from heaven saying, “This is My beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.” The Father’s love for Jesus may not surprise you, but the timing of His declaration should. The Father said He was pleased with the Son before Jesus ever preached a sermon, before He performed any miracles, before He called a disciple or confronted a Pharisee, before He overcame the temptations of the devil, before He endured the humiliation of the Romans or the suffering of the Cross. At that time Jesus had not yet completed any of His messianic calling. The Father declared Jesus’ identity as His beloved before He had accomplished anything. The Father’s love came first, not the Son’s obedience.

Like Jesus, God’s love for you is unconditional; you cannot earn it. We have already explored how God does not need your sacrifices or service, and He does not require your worship or devotion. That also means you cannot deserve or demand His love. It is a gift, generously and lavishly offered and totally undeserved. And far from elevating you above others, knowing God’s love ought to amaze and humble you.

Ultimately we do not obey our heavenly Father or practice generosity so that He will call us His beloved. It is precisely the opposite. He has already declared you to be His beloved child, and when the miracle of that unconditional love saturates into your being, it will propel you to obey, serve and give. God’s love comes first.

Reflect: What are ways you tried to earn God’s love in the past? How is this conditional vision of His love evident in the way some people practice generosity?

(Excerpt from Whole-Life Generosity Devotional, used with permission from GenerousChurch).

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