|What does it mean that God first loved?|
I used to have questions about the Christian proclamation declaring sin universal in the human family. Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, it seemed it was all too easy an excuse. Hearing we are sinners every Sunday, why would anyone be surprised if behaving badly was soon to follow?
While some describe sin as rebellion against God, it's also resistance, because the condition, however subtle or apparent, is not one we are free from, at least in this life.
Too often I get the impression that if I come to Jesus, my rebellion against God's love is somehow solved and I don't have to worry about it anymore. Mainly, I get something (eternal life in heaven) for myself.
This approach is tragic because it can foster self deception. I can use my faith to cover whatever darkness that remains in the corners of my life. Hidden from others and myself, I can convince myself that the injury I caused never really happened. The contemplative Thomas Keating would call this "selective memory." We defuse this process when in Step 8, we "make a list" of all those we have harmed.
Many, if not all, religions provide a taxonomy of who the sinners are, along with a classification of what sins are better or worse. That could describe both the religion of Jesus' day and in our churches. For example, sinners in the New Testament are associated with disability and sickness, education and class, occupation and family tree, nation and race.
But even if we choose resistance, it's the loving Trinity's life in us that gives us the desire and opportunity to bear fruit that is sustainable and lasting. God doesn't lead us to take roads that lead to nowhere. We're first created in God's image, surrounded by grace and love.
This is what it means when the Apostle declared that before we loved, God first loved us (I John 4:19) And that applies to every one of us--even more than our persistent turning away from God. Once upon a time, when God called us out of being into life and light God loved us into being. God's never stopped loving you.