I have one granddaughter. She's entering her adolescent stage of life. Over the years, I have affectionately called her "my favorite granddaughter." The most recent time I said that, she responded with a grin on her face, "I'm so glad I didn’t have to earn it." (She has two younger brothers.)
I was pleased with her response. She was loved from before her birth (as were her brothers), but I did not realize until I held her in my arms for the first time the intensity of emotion I would feel. She did not earn the value she has to me. She does not retain it by her behavior which has been inconsistent, to say the least, over the years. This is true of all children who have to learn appropriate behavior and attitudes through teaching and experience. I am pleased with her growing maturity.
Her response was a reminder to me that love is given, not earned. God’s love is given to us generously and before our "new birth" (John 3:16-21). Once we begin learning the theology of our various church denominations, we often fail to understand God's love does not wax and wane with our actions. Because we fail to understand God's unfailing love, our love for others can wax and wane with their actions. We expect others to be consistent with living the holy life God's children are called to live while we consider our own inconsistent behavior to be minor by comparison.
The other side of this particular theological coin is thinking God's love is so permissive he has no "rules" he expects us to live up to. When God calls upon us to repent, he is inviting us to live a life of love for him and for others, rather than continuing to live by our own opinions and cravings.
Even though the hurt caused by evil in this society can sometimes move us to grief and anger, we are asked to love as God loves. God loved us while we were still living in opposition to his way of love (1 John 4:7-21). Kindnesses given to all is God’s way. Sometimes rebuke is a kindness (Proverbs 27:5), but rebuke will fail to achieve its purpose without a history of kindness and respect. There is no formula for deciding when to speak and when to be silent. God’s wisdom is available to make an on the spot choice just for the asking (James 3:17-18; Luke 21:15).
But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
May we all be able to say with my granddaughter, "I'm glad I didn't have to earn it."
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