“God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
I John 4:9,10
We don’t have to earn this; this is a love that is given. It’s a reality that, like grace, is both unearned and undeserved.
-Br. Keith Nelson
Transcript: From the First letter of John: “God’s love was revealed among us in this way. God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
When I read and pray with this passage, the first thing that comes to me is that we don’t have to earn this, that this is a love that is given. It’s a reality that, like grace, is both unearned and undeserved. So I think that that’s the first thing that I desire to pray with when I read this passage: the reality that I don’t have to earn this, that this isn’t about something, a list of things, that I have to do in order for God to love me.
There’s a little bit of theology that I love about this verse called “prevenient grace,” the idea that grace not only comes behind us to clean up our mistakes but that it goes before us as well, so even the desire to pray, even the desire to grow in the knowledge and assurance of God’s love is in us because God has prompted that desire in us already. So it [i.e. grace] comes before us, and it goes after us, and it surrounds us on all sides, so it’s not about earning it.
I think the second thing that occurs to me is that we don’t always have to feel it and we’re not always going to feel it consciously, that this is a love that is in fact deeper than our conscious feelings. So that, on any given day, if we don’t feel the love of God, we don’t have to take that as a sign that God doesn’t love us, that we can … Of course the life of our feelings is essential to pay attention to, and God uses our feelings to send us many signs and hints in our lives of prayer, but we don’t have to rely on those feelings necessarily to know and to be assured of a love that transcends our feelings on any given day.
So one prayer practice that you might try is you might come up with a prayer of self-offering, a prayer that offers the wholeness of your self beyond your particular feelings on any given day, beyond your perhaps desire to earn God’s love, and it can just be a prayer that offers your whole self, knowing that grace has prompted you to pray that prayer and that grace will follow upon that prayer after you’ve offered it along with your whole self.