What “God Loves You” Actually Means
From the beginning, God chose to have a people who would be the object of his eternal love, just as Christ is the object of his eternal love. God sought to acquire a “bride” for Christ who would receive and reflect the love of the triune community (Eph 5:25-32). And the only qualification for being incorporated into this radiant bride, and thus for being loved by God with the same love he has for Christ, is simply that one is willing to let God do this!
The very same love that the Father has for the Son is now given to us, for we are, as a matter of fact, in the Son. The point is made perfectly clear in John 17 when Jesus prayed that his disciples, and thus all the world, would know that the Father has “loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:23, emphasis added). Then a few sentences later, he said to the Father, “I made your name [character] known to them … so that the [very same] love which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them (John 17:26, emphasis added).
The perfect love that defines God throughout eternity—the ultimate, worth-affirming, mutually submissive love that eternally unites the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—is now directed toward every person who is “in Christ.”
This means that as you read this sentence you could not be more loved than you are right now! The love that God eternally is burns toward you with the same unimprovable, passionate intensity that the three divine persons have for each other. The perfect love that God eternally is is directed toward you, right here and right now. It is not a secondary, compromised, watered down, or derivative love. It is the one and the same love that is shared by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In the very act of loving Christ, the Father loves you.
The goal of creation is for people to participate in the eternal love of the triune God. We do not do this by performing good deeds, successfully conquering certain sins, or holding all of the right theological positions. These may be by-products of the change in reality that takes place in us, but they are not the cause of the change. We participate in the eternal love of the triune fellowship by allowing ourselves to be placed in Christ by faith. We receive it. It is simply a matter of saying yes to God’s desire to relate to us in the process of relating to the triune community.
This was achieved when Christ came—which we celebrate during this Advent season—crossing the infinite gulf that distinguishes and separates God from fallen humanity. Through the incarnation and the eventual crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, the Father incorporates all who say yes into the Son. Thus the Trinity opens up the perfect, triune love and allows undeserving sinners to share in the dance of God’s eternal love and glory.
—Adapted from Repenting of Religion, pages 37-39