“This is love: not that we loved God but that God loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10 NIV)
Love starts with God. We as creatures made by God must receive everything from God. It is only because of our fallenness that this is not obvious. We are not the source: God is.
Yet we are commanded to love God! How is this possible? Without God it is impossible. The commandments are given to us to show us what God desires but also to show us that we are unable to do what God asks. This helps us to see that we need God to love God. As those who have believed in Jesus as God’s unique Son and have received him through the Holy Spirit into our hearts, we now have God living in us. We begin a life-long process of being receivers of God’s love so that we can love God more and more in return.
This same pattern can be seen with children. Infants must first receive love from their parents. Infants and young children are completely dependent on their parents and even as they get older they still need regular infusions of their parents’ love and support. Infants who do not receive such love and care eventually become withdrawn and unresponsive. Children who have to grow up too quickly or are traumatized by those who should be nurturing them have underlying deficits and hurts that can make it hard for them to receive love.
You may remember the fall of the very oppressive communist government of Rumania late in December 1989. Afterwards, severely neglected children were discovered in state-run orphanages. They had received so little care that they were terribly damaged in their ability to respond. Both their intellectual and social development were seriously impaired.
As good parents and caregivers of children we do not expect our children to love us without first receiving our love. Similarly, when we become children of God the Father through faith in God’s Son, God knows much more than we do how much we need to receive His love. We need to learn to become receivers of the Father’s love. Like needy children, we need to receive regular infusions of His wonderful, perfect and transforming love.
Because we have previously not fully known God’s love (before turning to Christ) and especially if there have been deficits or traumas in our experience with parental figures and others, we may unwittingly resist or not know how to receive God’s love. We may feel afraid or unworthy or have difficulty believing or trusting God’s goodness and faithfulness. Our fallen natures are not tuned into God’s love and the hurts of our lives may hinder us temporarily but our new natures are increasingly able to receive. The more we choose to receive, the more we can receive. And God’s love heals the very areas that make it hard to receive in the first place.
My own heart yearns to love God and to desire to seek Him. But I also realize that my heart can be lethargic, weighed down and easily distracted from this goal. I have been asking God to draw me–to give me a greater desire for Him. He is answering as He has before by pouring in more of His love and more of His nature. My main task is to receive and to go on receiving. It is His love that draws me to Himself and makes me want to both receive more and give love back to Him and to others.