I’m not sure where I picked up the idea of ‘being good’ so that God would love me. The concept seemed to just make sense to me as a young child, but it has managed to stick around in my mind since those early days so long ago. I grew up in a church that clearly taught God loves me no matter what. Still, it is hard for me to truly understand that His love is not dependent on my behavior, but on His character, as Paul wrote,
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”Romans 5:7-8 NKJV
As a young girl in Awana, one of the earliest verses I memorized was likely John 3:16. I have known it by heart almost my entire life, and yet often gloss over the deep reminders it contains that God loves each one of us without condition.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”John 3:16 NKJV
God so loved the world, not just the ‘good people.’ God so loved the world, including me. God sent Jesus to the Earth to die for me thousands of years before I was ever born. He loved me first before I was even capable of loving Him in return.
Jesus died so that whoever believes in Him has eternal life. Not whoever believes and is good, or whoever believes and promises to be a better person. God’s love is shown as He sent His Son for each and every person who has lived and will ever live.
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”1 John 4:10 NIV
Despite believing these verses and others to be true, the lie that I have to be good to be worthy of God’s love is still pervasive in my mind. At 36 years old, I still struggle with embracing, or even sometimes just acknowledging, the fact that God loves me deeply apart from my actions and choices.
I had heard that becoming a parent taught many of my friends more about God’s love, and I can definitely say it has been true for me as well. Throughout my two pregnancies, love grew for each of my babies. The first moment I heard each of their cries, held each one, saw their faces for the first time, a love so deep and so strong flooded my entire being. I didn’t know anything about these baby boys; they had done absolutely nothing to earn my love, and yet I loved each one completely. This is how God loves me.
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God!”1 John 3:1a NIV
Better still, whereas I knew nothing of who my two boys were when they were born, God knows everything about me and still loves me. He knows every corrupt thought, every sinful motivation, every selfish desire, every dark aspect I try to keep hidden away. Every sin. Period. And he still loves me deeply, completely, and perfectly.
O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, And are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, But behold, O LORD, You know it altogether.”Psalms 139:1-4 NKJV
God loves me because I am His, not because of anything I have done, will do, or could ever do to earn His love. As a mom, it’s silly to think of only loving my babies for what they do or don’t do. JJ Heller sings about this love of a parent for their newborn child, “I don’t even know you, and I love you completely.” Not because of what that baby has done or will do, just because they are yours. As believers in Jesus, we are God’s children, and the Bible says that “neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39 NKJV
What a gift, to be loved wholly, completely, and unconditionally by a perfect God... Father... Creator.