Jakob and I attended the Western Michigan game on Saturday. Sarah’s a Bronco now, so Jakob’s a pretty big WMU fan now and wanted to be there. It was a nice day. It was sunny for the first half, a little windy, and in the low-mid 50’s. Jakob was comfortable in his hoodie and hat until about halftime, as the Sun shifted behind the stadium. Now it was just in the 50’s and a little windy; it was no longer sunny where we sat. He got cold quickly, because he doesn’t tolerate colder weather much. I looked over at him at the beginning of the third quarter, and he was shivering, arms pulled inside his hoodie, and the neck up over his mouth. I asked if he was okay and if he wanted to stay at the game, and he said that he did, but he was too cold. He thought he might have to leave, even though he didn’t want to leave yet. So I did what I would naturally do as his dad: I took off my zip hoodie, put it on him, and sat there in a thin t-shirt. And I was cold. My arms were red and goose-bumped, and despite my best efforts, I shivered occasionally. He stared at me for a minute and asked, “Dad, why did you give me your sweatshirt if you’re going to be cold?” And I told him: “Because I love you, and I’d rather take care of you.”
A while later, I overheard a conversation a couple rows back from a couple of other guys. One said, “That is so stupid.” The other guy didn’t know what was stupid and asked for clarification. He clarified that my giving my kid my hoodie was stupid, because I would freeze in a t-shirt (I doubt anyone has ever frozen to death at 18 degrees above freezing, though), and it didn’t teach my son anything. He supposed my son would learn a better lesson if I let him be cold. He would learn to layer up better for football games. I didn’t turn around and respond, though at least a small part of me wanted to respond. Had I responded, I would have told him the lesson my son did learn, had learned, and would continue to learn: I love him, and his well-being is more important than my comfort. That’s the more important lesson. He can learn to layer up for football games on his own. I’d rather he learn my love for him from me. I’d rather he learn what it means to be loved by his father and how to love as a father for the future. And I’d rather he learn in small part the nature of God the Father’s love through his relationship with me.
We talked about that last lesson on our long walk back to the car. Thankfully, as he warmed up from walking, he thought maybe I’d like my hoodie back (I really did!). But I explained to him that a father’s love not earned; it is freely given first. He didn’t deserve my hoodie. He should have listened to Sarah and wore more and warmer clothes. But I gave it to him anyway out of my love for him. I extended grace to him, and he appreciated me. This is how God, our Father, deals with us. We do not deserve His favor. We do not deserve and could not ever earn His love. He doesn’t love us, because we love Him. As Pastor Dave taught on Sunday morning, God extended His love to us not when we loved Him, but while we were in direct opposition to Him. When God sent Christ to die for us – when He made that choice to give us the greatest gift – we were not deserving. It was solely out of His love, and His love is sacrificial. And then in response to His gracious, merciful, sacrificial love, we choose to love Him in return. We love Him, because He loved us.
1 John 4:10-19 says:
In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.
It’s not that we loved Him. it’s not that we deserved His love. He loved us. We love Him, too.