If you ask Gracie if she has any siblings she’ll tell you she has a sister in college. This sister happens to be her God-sister, Brie, the daughter of our best friends and Grace’s God-parents. Brie is one of the most amazing young women I have in my life. I’ve known her since she was five. Brie was 12 when I was pregnant with Grace and I remember her telling her mother: “I love the Gills so much that I feel just like I’m having a sister!” In spite of the 12-year gap, you’ll find no more loyal pair of sisters- paired not by blood, but by bonds much stronger, the bond of Christ, who’s unconditional love is the love we were meant to mirror.
Jesus tells us: “Love one another as I have loved you.” A love with no strings attached.
For Valentine’s Day Grace’s teacher had the students choose someone and list out: “Ten Reasons Why I Love You.” Grace chose Brie. Among the reasons she listed were: “You are fun” “You are a crafty artist” “You are smart” and “Your hugs.” But as I looked at the list (pictured here) the one that struck my heart most was:
#7: “I love you.”
Do you see the utter unconditional nature of that statement? “I love you because… I LOVE YOU!” It reminded me immediately of echoes of the Gospel.
In essence, God says to us in every moment with each breath: “I love you because I love you. It’s not anything that you’ve done to earn it. It’s not your deeds, your appearance or your success that make me love you. I just do… just because you are mine.”
He calls us children:
Behold what manner of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God. And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1)
If you are a parent, you know the wave that washes over you the moment you hear the news that you’re expecting a child. I remember in Labor and Delivery class listening to one beautiful woman as she caressed her plump belly saying: “I just love him so much already….” I remember thinking- “How true! Me too! And I have not even met her yet!”
I understand the truth of this analogy of God as Father can be hard for some. I have watched many a friend struggle with being outright rejected by a parent, and that pain is utterly devastating. But in the midst of that pain, there is one hope, and only one. No parent is perfect, save one- Your Father in Heaven- and His love IS utterly unconditional. No matter what situation exists with your earthly parents, The Lord of the Universe is your One True Father. The Lord says: “I knew you before I formed you in the womb; I set you apart for me before you were born;” (Jeremiah 1:5)
King David writes of his amazement at God’s creative power of love in Psalm 139:
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well. (Psalm 139: 13-14)
He knit you together in your mother’s womb and saw you in the secret place- before your own parents even knew you existed. He is the Father who loved you- just because, and He calls you His precious child.
The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. (Romans 8:16)
How can we KNOW as this verse says, that we are indeed, “God’s children?”
He is intentional:
God is love. (1 John 4:8)
I believe that for those not grounded in the word of God this phrase often gets misinterpreted. It says: God is love, but based on conversations I’ve had over the years it is often interpreted as: “Love is God.” And that is a very different statement. As an example, I have a friend who believes there is not a God but rather a “life force” or “energy” that is love itself. In one conversation I pointed out that love alone can’t be just some energy or force emanating through the universe. Love is an action. Action requires intentionality… and intentional action can only come from a source of personhood. She smiled at me and said: “You got me… you got me there with intentionality…” She did not mean that I’d won an argument, but that I’d spoken to her heart.
Here is the hard heart truth that we have such a difficult time facing and which we must admit: We are a mess of sins— we are dead in them. If we are honest, often even our good deeds have selfish motives. Whether languishing in indulgent sin or climbing the ladder of success by the pride of our “good deeds,” we are at the heart: not good, not even close to good, not any one of us: for as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one. For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:10, 23)
This is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sin. (1 John 4:10)
Even in the midst of our sin and brokenness God loved us, even when we did not love Him. Why? Just because He does! He’s proven it. Every other religion and its leader says you must climb the mountain to get to God and hope you are good enough and can get close enough to be accepted. But the Christian faith says: God came down to us! He made himself incarnate, in the form of Jesus, to save us from our mess of sins. He was willing to sacrifice everything to bring us home to the Father. It is faith in this truth that will give you and I the unshakable confidence to know: In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. (Galatians 3:26)
God did not remain distant from us. He came to us and laid down his life for us. That is love in action. Jesus said: Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13) This is what Jesus did for us on the cross. He died in our place. He lived the life we should have lived- perfect and blameless. And then he died the death we should have died- accused, wretched and outcast. Why? Love.
Jesus did not come to make bad people good. He came to make dead people alive through the power of LOVE— a real, unconditional, sacrificial tenderness of grace that says: “I’m giving up my own life for you. Because I die now, you may live forever. Not because you earned it. Not because you deserve it, but just because I love you.” Who can gaze on that moment and not be brought to awe and adoration? If we have any love in us at all it is only because we embrace this truth. We must learn to love our Lord God and Savior first, by gazing constantly on this truth. Then we can learn to love others.
We love because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19)
Only when that we attain access to the true source of love- which is Jesus himself- do we have the ability to truly love others! Without Him we are “dead” in our sins, but when HE makes us alive, we now have Him (LOVE!) in our hearts. His love is so beautiful- so “Just because” that when we see that reality we are moved not only to adore Him, but also to be like him. Jesus said: Love one another as I have loved you. (John 13:34) A love like Jesus’ is intentional. It says: “I’m going to lay down my life for you.” That means in every relationship I intend to love “just because….” No strings attached. No performance required. No conditionality. No “if’s” set beforehand. I just lay down my life— all my wants, all my desires, all my expectations, all my personal preferences, all my “rights,” all my motivation to have my “way” and all my desires to be loved back. I lay it down as the Lord who first loved me. I say to the other:
“I love you just because…”