You’re probably a little skeptical right now–or a lot skeptical–and I don’t blame you. After all, this is the opposite of what we have been conditioned to believe. I certainly believed the exact opposite. That is, up until four days ago when I had the opportunity to discuss this very topic with some deep-thinking men and women from my church. I left that conversation with my world absolutely flipped upside down.
Aaaand you’re still skeptical. On to the first heading!
Let’s Get Something Out of the Way
Sometimes–unconsciously, because I know the difference when I actually think about it–I equate God’s love with salvation. You may be having a hard time with the concept of deserving God’s love because you think that I’m saying that everyone deserves salvation. Don’t worry, I’m not saying that. If you’re having a hard time seeing the difference, let me point you to Romans 5:8:
…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
It takes a lot of love for a person to make the choice to die for another person. It takes a lot more love to die for a person who hates you.
And that’s exactly what Jesus did.
He loved us before we chose Him; before we were saved.*
*We can talk about predestination later if you want.
The God Who Is Love
Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love…So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. -1 John 4:8 and 16
When I was younger and going through my new-agey, philosophical phase, I started to wonder if love itself was God. After all, if God equals love, then love equals God–then all love is God. That made God not so much a personal being as a concept; a feeling.
I was kind of a hippie for a hot minute.
I don’t think that in this verse John is saying that God is a feeling (and/or a choice, if you believe love is a choice). I think it’s saying that to love is God’s nature.
If God’s nature is perfect love, it would follow that the most selfless and loving thing He could do is create beings to be the recipients and beneficiaries of that love.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? -Romans 8:35
Beloved and Valuable
So, God loves us because it is in His nature.
I would probably argue that in order for God to consider us worthy of His love, deserving if you will, He would have to see some sort of value in us.
Surely He doesn’t, right? We’re the scum of the earth. We’re dust, filthy sinners, and it doesn’t make any sense for God to even look our way. At least, that’s the narrative that I feel like I’m always hearing.
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? -Matthew 6:25-26
“Are you not of more value than they?” He says it like it’s just an established fact, one that only a crazy person would refute.
We have value. We are valuable enough to God for Him to give us things like food and drink and clothes. You could say we’re worthy and deserving of those things to Him.
I guess Jesus really likes birds, because He compares us to them again 5 chapters later:
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. -Matthew 10:28-31
To God, we are worthy of His protection. Nothing can touch us without His consent.
I’m gonna break out the famous one:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. -John 3:16
To God, we are worth dying for. Think about it–if we weren’t worth His death, He wouldn’t have died for us. That’s just investment 101. If the return isn’t worth the investment, you don’t make the investment. But He saw us as worthy of the ultimate investment.
When did we become unworthy?
After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” -Genesis 15:1
The Lord came to Abram. He came to us. We didn’t have to run after God begging for Him to love us. He looked at Abram and saw him as a person worthy not only of love, but for offspring of a comparable number to the stars in the sky (which, back then, was pretty much like hitting the jackpot). This was before Abram offered any sacrifices, before he was justified by God. Before he was “purified,” God looked on him and saw a person worthy of love.
Did we somehow lose that worth somewhere along the way?
Have you ever thought about the fact that Jesus didn’t have to come down to Earth at all? I’m gonna get into a bit of history here.
The Israelites were the beneficiaries of God’s love since the beginning of time, but if you pay attention to their interactions with God throughout the Old Testament, it’s pretty obvious that they weren’t very good at reaping the full benefits of that love.
God could have chosen to let them continue with their sacrifices and their temple veil and their lack of personal relationships with Him. After all, their sacrifices atoned for their sins, right?
But He didn’t let that continue.
He wanted them (as well as the Gentiles) to know His love and know it fully.
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. -John 15:13
That’s from the mouth of Jesus Himself. If Jesus saw us as worth His death, that means He saw us as worthy of the greatest love there is.
And He didn’t die for a perfect people. He died for the Jews and Gentiles, and the Gentiles never offered up any sort of sacrifice to atone for their sins.
But He died for them anyway. Why is that?
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. -John 1:12
The right. Not a privilege that can be taken away for bad behavior, but the right.
If we are God’s children, I would argue that that means He sees us as worthy of His love. It would be a pretty intense metaphor if He didn’t. And no father ever loved His newborn baby because of the things that she could do for Him. I mean, she’s a baby, dude. You’re going to be doing everything for that kid for awhile. But he still sees that baby as worth loving. Why?
Because of her intrinsic value.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where mothers and fathers are imperfect. Luckily, we have God’s words in Isaiah 49:15-16:
Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands…
That’s some kind of love right there.
Could it be that God sees intrinsic value in every person simply because of what they are?
I’ll ask again: Did we somehow lose that worth along the way?
Or are we believing a lie?
Why Does This Matter?
Lately I’ve been asking God to help me love people better, maybe have it come to me more naturally. Loving people is something I know the importance of but often simply forget to do. It’s definitely easier to do now that I know God, but I know I still have a lot of room to grow.
I’ve believed for a long time now that God loves everyone, but that never really helped me love people any better because I guess a part of me likes to use the excuse that God is simply better at loving people. And that is true, of course, but it’s not a good excuse for not doing it myself.
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? -1 John 3:16-17
If every person I see is deserving of God’s love, that changes things. That puts a pricelessness on people that I had never really considered before. How much more are they worthy of whatever love I have to give?
It’s already changed the way I see others.
And that is the biggest reason why I believe this to be true, that people deserve to be loved by God: the fruit (aka result) of believing it is an increased love for people.
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. -James 3:17
Take a look at the Scriptures for yourself.
If any of this is upsetting or unhelpful to you, or produces anything but gratitude towards God and love towards people in your heart, ignore everything I’ve said.
But if you’re open, I’d like for us to stop believing the lie that we aren’t deserving of God’s love. God Himself has called us worthy.
Until next time,