Wednesday, February 15, 2012
I've got some history with love. How about you?
Sometime back in the murky years of elementary school, there crept a dawning realization that I liked it when girls liked me. It felt good, so I took note of what girls liked. When I was funny, they liked it. When I was caring, they liked it. When I threw a touchdown pass, they liked it. When I looked good, they liked it. It wasn't long before I had a storehouse of knowledge concerning what girls liked. Pretty useful, I thought.
Through the ensuing years of wanting to be liked, I brought out of my storehouse whatever I thought was best for the situation. I wanted this girl or that girl to see me at my best, so I offered a bit of caring here, some physical prowess there, and perhaps a witty phrase or two to seal the deal. I discovered an important equation: She sees me + she likes me = Valentines galore.
What did I do when I wanted God's love? Pretty much the same thing. I wanted Him to see me doing the things He liked—reading the Bible, witnessing, tithing, caring, not sinning, etc.—so He would like me. I worked my equation: God sees me + God likes me = Valentines galore. It works with women and love, so it must work with God. It's the way of love.
Or so I thought.
But before I could trot out one dazzling speck of Valentine worthiness from my storehouse, God, who sees me at every moment, loved me for no reason I could see. Ever since we first got together when I was twenty-four, He has been dazzling me. Really, it's the most valuable part of my life—God's love for me. And I have never been able to motivate Him to love me. He has never once conveyed to me that He loves me now more than He once did. Not one time has He ever told me that His love for me is deeper, better, seasoned, more fun, more reliable, or more secure. I haven't done a thing to bring about anything any better. Maybe that will be my claim to fame. "Without doing anything to deserve it, Ralph knew that God loved him like crazy."
If you asked my wife, Sarah, why she loves me, she would give you reasons—some good ones. She would say, "I love Ralph because. . ." If you asked God why He loved me, His response wouldn’t be like Sarah's. While there are things He likes about me, He loves me without a because. I have done nothing to earn God’s love and there will never come a day when I will have to finally get myself together and earn His love. That's something that has fascinated and drawn me to Him ever since He first wooed me to Himself.
God is love! (1 John 4:8) God's love doesn't ebb and flow, rise and fall, motivated by the subject or the moment—God is love. And have you noticed? He's wild and reckless with it! When you consider who He loves, don't you come to the same conclusion? He doesn't keep His love only for the loveable—not for a moment. He lavishes His deep and lasting affection upon the best and worst of us without regard. And, try as we might, nothing can ever separate us from His love. Say it with me—nothing. God shot my equation all to hell. Really. He did it for love.
And now? I’ve got a new equation: God's love + God's grace = Valentines galore!
"But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 2:4-9)