My young daughter looked up at me one night with tears in her eyes and told me with great anguish, “I don’t know how to love Jesus. I try and try, but I just don’t think it is enough!” I pulled her in close and hugged her tightly against me. I didn’t have to search for something to say because words from 1 John 4 immediately came to my mind. I told her, “It is not that we have loved God, but that God loved us first. It’s not about us trying harder to love Him; it is accepting the love that He has so freely given us.”
She looked up at me as if that were too easy of an answer, and I understood why she felt that way. In life it seems we are always striving. Striving to be better, striving to make a name for ourselves, striving to be a good spouse or friend, striving to make more money. It all focuses on us and how we perform. But those are the world’s standards, not God’s. However, when we take those standards and apply them to our relationship with God, we end up feeling like we will never measure up to what He deserves. We can work at it all we want, but it will never be enough.
But God comforts us with this: “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). We can let go of our efforts to prove that we love God because the solution lies in realizing just how much He loves us. God gave the life of His beloved Son to guarantee our eternal life with Him, even though it was our own sin that nailed Him to the cross. But when we come to Him in repentance, God forgives us and says we are free! When we contemplate such amazing love, we become overwhelmed with grateful love for Him, and our belief that we must strive for His love fades away. Our love for Him becomes our response to His amazing gift of grace.
“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” 1 John 4:10
“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19
“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