The following is a reflection on 1 John 4:7-21, the epistle lesson for the Fifth Sunday of Easter in Year B, according to the Revised Common Lectionary.
I have very clear memories of holding each of my daughters, just moments after their births. Both times a nurse handed me those little swaddled bundles and then left the room to care for my wife, just recovering from the c-section.
I remember experiencing a flood of emotion, and an overwhelming sense of wonder. Looking into their little squinting eyes, and running my fingers through their little whisps of hair, I was convinced that I’d never love anyone else ever as much.
But, why? Why did I love them so much then? They hadn’t done anything yet. They hadn’t even eaten, or had reason for a diaper change. They hadn’t accomplished some great feat, and they hadn’t done anything for me at all.
They hadn’t even fetched the remote control for me.
But, I didn’t love them because of what they had done, or what they could do. I loved them for who they were: they were mine. My children. An in those moments, and every moment since, I have loved them. On days when they make me proud. On days when they get on my last nerve. On every day in-between.
Becoming a daddy has helped me get a glimpse into the love of God that I might never had gotten otherwise. Not that there aren’t other ways to glimpse God’s love—but for me, personally, it changed everything.
As I held those little bundles of joy in my arms and felt the rush of awe and wonder, so must God experience when he holds us. God doesn’t love us because we do things for Him. God doesn’t love us because of our great feats and accomplishments. God doesn’t love us because we’re good.
God loves us, because we are His. On days when we make Him proud, on days when we get on His every last nerve, on days we fail to live up to even the most basic Christian expectations.
He loves us still. Despite it all. Through it all.
We are His.
In 1st John, we are rightly told that God doesn’t love us because we love God. God loved us first. He was the first lover.
It’s the response to that gushing love that is meant to spring up in us the power to love in return. How can we not love the God who made us, redeemed us, and who loves us?
It’s why God wants to give us eternal life—so that we can abide with Him forever. We were meant to live in the Garden of Eden with God forevermore, with the Tree of Life bearing the fruit that would make that possible. Of course, that didn’t work out as planned. But, then, in order to make that dream a reality again, God sent His Son. To live among us, as one of us.
To die as one of us.
How much did God in Christ love us? That much.
Because when we are swaddled in His arms, and God looks into our squinting eyes, all He sees is love.
Which is why it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.
Love. Never. Fails.