Each year the calendar flips to December, and the Advent season arrives. Like waves landing on a beach, the season comes to us with familiarity and beauty. The details of the incarnation are not new to us. But, isn’t true that each year (or each day) there is something fresh to grasp your mind or heart?
We often think about the love of God during Christmas—and rightly so! It is a glorious truth that God loved the world by giving his Son for us (John 3:16). But in addition to learning about what God did, there are also lessons for what we should do. Those who believe in God should imitate the character of God, in this case, his love (Eph. 5:1ff; 1 John 4:7-8).
God’s Love Initiates
We learn in Ephesians 1 that before the foundation of the world, God’s love was initiating a relationship with people.
We read in Ephesians 1:4, “even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.”
This is quite amazing. God chooses or elects or picks out people before the foundation of the world. His love initiates to sovereignly and graciously choose a people for himself. The Bible teaches us that this choice is not merited by how much we deserve it. This is clear for two reasons. First, it was before the foundation of the world, so it could not be based on anything good we might do. Second, we know that after we were born, we have been imperfect. There is no way we could ever earn the right to qualify for such love. This is why it is all of grace (Eph. 1:6).
This love does have holiness in its scopes, however. Holiness is the goal, not the basis, of God’s electing love. God chose his people unto holiness. It’s astounding to think about this. We fear what so many people think about us. Sometimes it can paralyze us. We get anxious, worry, and sometimes avoid having to face people. Fear of man grips us. But did you see what God’s initiating love secures? Christ’s people will be holy and blameless before God. That is, believers, through faith in Christ, are clothed in the righteousness of Jesus. And, we can, therefore, stand holy and blameless before the inflexibly righteous and infinitely holy God! Those who are prone to cower before men will stand blameless before God.
Because believers are in him we can be cheered by this prospect. The reality of being united to Jesus Christ and sharing in all of his benefits (Eph. 1:3) means we are genuinely blameless in God’s sight because we are clothed with his everlasting righteousness!
God’s initiating love secured this.
God’s Initiating Love Imitated
When we consider God’s love we are given a helpful diagnostic and a pattern for us to pursue. Does your love for others reflect God’s love? I know all of us to lack the sovereignty and eternal existence required to perfectly reflect all aspects of God’s love. But, in principle, do you love others as God does? Here are some questions to consider.
Do you only love people who can give you something in return? If so, perhaps you’re only loving yourself.
Do you only love people who are like you, or are you willing to love people who are different from you? Consider that God has shown love to sinful people like you and me. We can’t get much more different than this. Can we not initiate by loving others who are unlike us?
Do you tend to limit your demonstration of love in response to others, or do you initiate? Consider again how love in your home or church might be different if people did not merely react or wait for others to love, but instead initiated it.
When there is an argument or disagreement, are you the one who initiates reconciliation, or are you waiting for the other to do it? Sometimes we feel entitled to someone else initiating, but when we consider the gospel, we’re reminded that God initiated love to us when we weren’t entitled to it.
Is your love motivated by God’s glory and other’s good? Read Ephesians 1 and consider how God loves for his glory and our good. It’s revolutionary for love.
It is astonishing to consider God’s initiating love. He loves people who are unworthy of his love and unable to pay him back. What a privilege we have to reflect this love by glorifying him in our lives.