Why doesn’t God give up on us?

Love-among-men-J.I.Packer

She is the tiniest little thing. Casey’s new baby daughter was tucked in close to her mama’s chest as we went over our songs for worship Sunday morning. Her tiny little eyes quickly closed into a deep sleep as the band played and the choir sang.

She is easy to love. It’s not a hard decision to choose to love her.

But us? We grown-ups aren’t always as easy to love. 

So why does God keep up the hard work of loving us anyway?

In chapter 12 “The Love of God” in J. I. Packer’s Knowing God, Packer explains that “God is love” is as deep into the mystery of God’s nature as man can go.

“The love which God shows to men, and which Christians know and rejoice in, is a revelation of His own inner being. . . .

Contemplating His love, we are to look into His heart. We shall stand on holy ground; we need the grace of reverence, that we may tread it without sin.”

God’s love is unfolded through Packer in this succession:

1. God’s love is an exercise of his goodness.
God practices his goodness through loving us. Packer calls it “His cosmic generosity.” God’s goodness prompts him to deal with us better than we deserve.

2. God is good to love sinners.
We recognize this as grace and mercy, ideas that are totally foreign to the natural give-and-take of relationships.

“There was nothing whatever in the objects of His love to call it forth; nothing in man could attract or prompt it. Love among men is awakened by something in the beloved, but the love of God is free, spontaneous, unvoiced, uncaused. God loves men because He has chosen to love them.”

3. God is good to love this sinner.
His love isn’t just in general; it’s specific. To me. To you.

4. God’s love is in our best interest.
I agree. I believe God does what is best for our good and his glory.

[But I disagree with Packer here: he states that “those who truly love are only happy when those whom they love are truly happy also. So it is with God in His love for man.” God is only happy when I’m happy? Well, maybe. But I think God maintains his peace and contentment within himself regardless of outside forces, including my happiness or lack of it. I don’t see his happiness as conditional upon mine.]

5. God’s love to sinners is expressed through his gift of Jesus to us.
If, as Packer states, “the measure of love is how much it gives,” then God really loves us. [I’m not sure that’s always the truest measure, however, but I don’t want to nitpick.] We all know John 3:16, that God loved us so much that he gave his Son, part of himself. That is the ultimate gift.

6. God’s love is fulfilled through a covenant relationship.
I like how Packer phrases this: “two parties are permanently pledged to each other.”

The greatness of God’s love as seen through these six characteristics shows his love isn’t contingent on how lovable we are, but on how great he is. 

God doesn’t love us just because of who we are, but because of who he is. 

It’s easy for me to look at Casey’s sweet baby girl and love her when she’s asleep and cuddly and so adorable. But Casey loves her in a bigger way: even when she’s spitting up and crying and refusing to sleep—because of who Casey is. She’s the mother. She is love.

I’m glad it’s that same way—yet a million times more!—with God’s love for us. He loves us regardless of how high or low our adorable factor is, even when we mess up and act ugly, because he’s still our daddy.

He doesn’t just love. He is love.

* * *

Is it difficult for you to understand the love of God? What’s the closest you’ve come? Please share.

We’re reading through Knowing God via Challies. Grab a copy and read along.

Previous chapters:

Next chapters:

  • Chapter 13, “The Grace of God”
  • Chapter 14, “God the Judge”

Knowing-God-Packer-summary

27 thoughts on “Why doesn’t God give up on us?

  1. blankAndrew Budek-Schmeisser

    It’s not hard for me to feel God’s love; the worse my physical situation becomes – and yesterday was a new nadir…except that this morning is worse.

    I don’t really think about being a sinner, covenant relationships, and all that. He’s just’there’, and the only place I can get the strength to face the new day is from Him. He wouldn’t help me if He didn’t love me.

    The immanence that is tranpartnetly part of life’s God-given grace may come from long-term Zen practice – it teaches me to clear my mind, to see – and not analyze – the transcendent as real, every day. As I write this I see in the sidebar mention of Paul Knitter’s “Without Buddha I could Not be a Christian”.

    Bang on. That may be it, exactly.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      It’s a great blessing that you don’t find it hard to feel God’s love. I’m not sure everyone in your situation would be able to say the same. Continuing to pray for you, Andrew. Knowing that God is with us in the here and now is transformative.

      My meditation practice is still a struggling one, but one I keep pressing into anyway. I do know there is great value in just being present with God in the now, with no agenda, no words. Knitter’s book is a little over my head at this point, but I’m reading the words anyway and getting from it what I’m able.

  2. blankSharon

    Great thoughts, Lisa – and wonderful commentary on Packer’s words. Understanding the great love of God – it’s so vast and perfect that it is hard to wrap your mind around it. I suppose the closest I’ve ever come is when I came *back* to Him after not following closely for awhile. I was so hurt and guilty and ashamed. It was then that I personally experienced the loving arms of a Father running to embrace this prodigal. The fullness of acceptance that I felt, the warmth of forgiveness – the smile I felt on His face – it was truly a touch of heaven.

    Might I also just add this – that among all the many reasons that I am grateful for my sons, I am so glad for the insights I’ve been given into the heart of God by being a parent. It’s taught me a lot more about love in all of its many aspects.

    GOD BLESS!

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      Yes, wrapping our minds around God’s love is impossible. But oh, such a joy to know that it’s that big! Running back to him–and him running to meet us–is definitely a highlight moment, Sharon. And definitely, being a parent continues to teach me more about God’s love than anything else ever has. Thanks for sharing, friend.

  3. blankRebecca

    I’m so glad that God’s long suffering extends to me and all people. I’m reminded of the scripture – “What is man that thou art mindful of him.” Thanks for sharing this insightful post.

  4. blankMari-Anna Stalnacke

    I like J.I. Packer. Such a good idea to dig deeper in one of his books! God’s love is so amazing that it’s not easy to understand. I think we need to experience it to really understand it. And even then we can’t fully grasp it. Thanks, Lisa. Always a blessing to visit your place! Stay blessed!

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      I agree that Packer provides some meaty material to sink our teeth into. I’ve read “Knowing God” before, but I feel like I’m reading it again for the first time. There’s always more to think about and more to learn when we’re talking about God!

  5. blankTrudy

    I love your honest critique, Lisa. I love how when you read you compare it with God’s Truth. I believe, too, God’s happiness is not conditional upon ours. I love this – “God doesn’t love us just because of who we are, but because of who he is.” God’s unconditional love is so comforting, isn’t it?

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      If you see it that way too, maybe I’m not totally off-base then. ha. Thanks, Trudy.

      And yes, God’s unconditional love is such a safe place to be! I love that it’s all about him and not about us. It doesn’t lead us to “take advantage” of him, but rather to love him all the more for it.

  6. blankfloyd

    Yep. Amen. He is love. The grace He pours out on us is beyond complete grasp, but the little I get boggles the mind. It is hard to love some people… but yet our Father loves them despite the breath they use to mock Him… Their trespasses aren’t against us, they’re against Him. And if He’s not taking it personally I guess I shouldn’t either.

    Thanks, Lisa. This one put my noodle to work.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      “And if He’s not taking it personally I guess I shouldn’t either.” Lots of food for thought in your comment, Floyd. Not taking things personally is a huge concept I’ve tried to work on more and more the past few years. But I haven’t considered it in terms of God not taking it personally either. Thanks for making me think, brother!

  7. blankAlecia Simersky

    I asked God for years to help me love him, to be in love with him. I felt like that was the next phase in my spiritual journey. I believed in him and knew him but didn’t feel like I loved him as I should. God has shown up and answered that prayer over the last couple of years. I can honestly pray now, “God I love you for who you are and how you’ve loved me, thank you.”

  8. blankBarbara H.

    One of the things I like about this reading together series is that different people bring out different things. One of the quotes here I don’t even remember seeing, LOL! I’m only keeping up with you and Challies – I just don’t have time to keep up with the Facebook group.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      Exactly. I always read things that you or Tim write that make me think, “Was that in the chapter?” I miss so much on my own. I probably need companions with every book I read. 🙂

  9. Pingback: Knowing God, Chapters 11 and 12: God’s Word and His Love | Stray Thoughts

  10. blankSheralee

    From my studies, scripture is teaching that we are the love gift of the Father to His obedient Son. Christ was obeying His Father’s plan of redeeming the elect, whom He gives to the Son for obeying that purpose of redeeming fallen creation/creatures. What better gift could a Father give His son than a spotless bride. What display of glory to give spiritual life to the spiritually dead (regeneration), separate them from their sin (sanctification) and bring them to holiness (glorification). In other words, I have come to the understanding that the story of redemptive history is about God, and we regenerated creatures get to be a part of that. This side of heaven, how can we possibly understand the fullness of the Godhead’s love. Yet, boy oh boy do I ever want to:)

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      This is beautiful, Sheralee: “We are the love gift of the Father to His obedient Son.” I’m not sure I’ve thought of it in exactly this way before, so I appreciate you sharing your thought here. The gift of a spotless bride is indeed quite a treasure. No earthly father can claim to give that to his future son-in-law, yet God accomplished it for Jesus (at a great price, of course). Yes, I’m thankful too that we get to be a part of the story of redemption! You’ve blessed me tonight with these glorious thoughts.

  11. blankDavid

    Dear Lisa

    Well, I must have taken a wrong turning somewhere because I don’t much think of God as loving at all. All the suffering, sympathetic, loving humanity I have parcelled up into Jesus. God is the rocks in the road, the tests, the temptations, the trials and tribulations.

    No doubt I have more work to do.

    (Sorry to be bleak)

    David

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      Honesty is good. God often gets portrayed as the harsh one, and Jesus as the loving one, so you’re not alone in those thoughts I’m sure. But if Jesus came to show us who God is–and I believe he did–then they both are loving in my eyes. The apostle John said that “God is love,” one of my favorite verses.

      We all have more work to do. 🙂

  12. blankJean Wise

    I think it is very difficult to comprehend the love of God. It is too immense for our tiny brains and hearts to hold. We are so steeped in his love we don’t even realize it it is the air we are breathing. Thanks for “unpacking” Packer for me. I know your quotes and thoughts you have been sharing from his book has enriched my walk. Thanks

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      Good point, Jean. He is the very air we take in every second, and we are rarely even aware of it. Just like kids are rarely aware of the sacrifices that adults make for them. And the adults love them anyway! We are blessed to be God’s kids. 🙂

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      You’re right, Sarah: It’s wonderful that we don’t have to understand it to feel it! His love goes ahead of us, behind us, beside us, inside us. Too much to comprehend.

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