- Theological presupposition #1:
Love is a verb.
Remember that catch phrase and the DC Talk song that went along with it? It’s OK if you don’t – that only means you were blissfully unaware of the Christian music scene in the early 1990’s. But the concept is true. To love means to desire and facilitate the highest good of another. Emotional affection is certainly related, but it is not synonymous with the act of loving another. It is possible to love someone you dislike very much.
- Theological presupposition #2:
God’s universal love for mankind was displayed on the cross. He offered His love and forgiveness when we were His enemies because of sin. His love was made available to all, irrespective of whether He liked anything about our motives or actions. I did nothing to earn my salvation.
As a new Christian and at various points in my journey, I have twisted these two truths (perhaps with a little help) and become convinced that God had to love me because it was in His character—but I held no unique value for Him.
I was His child, but in a legal sense. He offered forgiveness and restoration through the cross and I accepted it. The adoption was final, so He was stuck with me. He would take care of me, but surely I mattered little to Him on an individual level. There was nothing exceptional about me that He should take any particular delight or pleasure in who I was.
I could always find an example (either contemporary or historical) of a believer who loved Him better, worked harder for Him, or seemed to have a more intimate relationship with Him. I concluded that He saved me because I fell into the ‘everyone’ that He wanted to save. I imagined He felt sort of neutral about me if he took any notice of me at all. He created me, He redeemed me, and I served Him because it was the appropriate thing to do under the circumstances. The end.
But why did He create me and save me? Was it only so that I could add numerical value to his massive collection of redeemed souls? Of course not! Humankind was created in the image of God—a triune, relational God. The persons of the trinity enjoyed a perfect relationship of love and unity prior to the creation of the first humans. Love was given, love was received and then love spilled out. In my opinion, humanity could be very loosely described as a ‘the more the merrier’ sentiment on God’s part.
“Created in God’s image” has to mean something—my guess would be that it means there are things about us that are like Him. I believe the reason for this is that God’s plan for humanity included a unique, intimate, reciprocal, and mutually pleasing relationship with each individual. In other words we all have the built-in capacities necessary for relating to God—and that was on purpose!
Our sinful nature puts some temporary limitations on that relationship, but His keen interest in each of us is in no way limited.
So yes, we have nothing to present to God that He didn’t give us—but one of the things He gave us was the ability to communicate with Him, to offer Him love, to please Him, to affect Him. That’s how He wanted it. I am significant and interesting to God because that’s how I was made!