My three year old has recently started saying, every so often, “I love you Daddy,” in response to my saying “I love you Connar.” It’s pretty cool when he does it. For a while, he would just say, “Ok.” I prefer “I love you” a bit more. It’s a bit more personal.
For a little while I even thought about instructing him. Connar, when someone says, “I love you,” you say, “I love you too” back to them. But then again, I thought that was quintessence of in-authenticity. I wanted my son to say, “I love you” back to me, but I wasn’t about to force him, or even teach him that’s what you’re supposed to say. I realized that in time, whether by social convention or true love, he’d say, “I love you” back to me. Why force him when he’d eventually come around?
That kind of thinking makes sense for a growing boy. He’ll get it eventually. Yet for many who have problems with predestination and God’s sovereign call over someone, this parental conundrum seems to trump sound exegesis. On the surface we may think, “Do I want a Father who makes me love Him?” Is that really loving on his behalf? Is that really love at all? Shouldn’t God just wait for us to say, “I love you too?”
The problem is that all of us are spiritually still born (Ephesians 2:1-5). We’re not growing boys and girls who eventually hear God saying, “I love you,” and then respond in time. We’re dead in sin and incapable of a response. It is in this context that we are “made alive.” We can’t love Him without His first making us alive. So it’s not out of arrogance or an overbearing Father that is impatient and needs affirmation from His children. He sees people who can’t say I love you. He sees people who can only say, “I love myself.” And He has compassion on such people. In fact is “because of His great love” that we are made alive.
Once we have been made alive, and are freely chosen, we freely choose-we want to. They now can, for the first time, hear “I love you” from their Heavenly Father. That’s what theologians call “irresistible grace.” Of course we choose. But we’ve first been chosen. And when we hear our Father’s voice for the first time say, “I love you,” can we choose anyone or anything else? No of course not. No one else will do or suffice.
That is still love to me. In fact, as Van Halen once sang, “It’s got what it takes, so tell me why can’t this be love?”