The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba,Father.”
– Romans 8:15-16, NIV
What do we mean when we say God loves me?
You cannot earn more of God’s love and you cannot lose God’s love.
Human affection is fickle. Love is not.
This is one of those God Ideas that most of us think we believe, but don’t live as if we believe. We are so accustomed to proving our worth, and so unfamiliar with the outpouring of pure love. We might know God loves unconditionally and still find ourselves trying to earn God’s affections.
Even if we received unconditional love as infants, it wasn’t long before we experienced praise and correction as the giving and withdrawing of affection. Instead of working for good grades because achievement feels good, we worked hard to earn a parent’s approval. Rather than eating right and exercising so to enjoy good health, we do it to gain acceptance or avoid disdain. It is hard to shake the sense that someone’s love and affection are contingent upon our behavior or performance. Even if the someone is God, and we know better.
Love is not a feeling. Love is an activity of the will.
Dallas Willard defined love as “willing the good of another.” God always wills our good, always acts toward our benefit. God doesn’t have needs or desires or whims that get in the way of love; God’s needs and desires and whims are fully contingent on God’s love. God is love, so God is always willing our good.
God wills the good for God’s children.
we unwittingly project onto God our own attitudes and feelings toward ourselves… But we cannot assume that He feels about us the way we feel about ourselves — unless we love ourselves compassionately, intensely, and freely.
– Brennan Manning, Abba’s Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging
God loves us because God created us and adopted us. Neither creation nor adoption have anything to do with our value or our efforts, any more than a newborn is responsible for her size, weight, hair color, or social status. God’s creation, adoption, and love are interlinked. We reap the benefit.
Imagine what your life would be like if you really believed that God loves you because you are God’s treasured child. Imagine what you would do if you knew you could not lose God’s love and affection. What would matter? What would stop mattering?
This post is part of the God Ideas Series.