The Harvard Business Review reports about business trends and popular ideas. One of the most widely held is called the “First Mover Advantage.” Writing for HBR, Fernando Suarez and Gianvito Lanzolla describe how popular this idea is:
Business executives from every kind of company maintain, almost without exception, that early entry into a new industry or product category gives any firm an almost insuperable head start.
God, too, has a first mover advantage: He took the initiative to love us before we ever loved anyone and before we even knew what love was.
Jesus said that God loved the world (John 3:16). Not just the planet, but every person in the world. This is the first motivation for any love we show: We love because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19).
But though His love is first, we who are loved people can easily be confused by it. We mistake His love for flawed human substitutes. Or we ignore it, believing our current problems are too big for merely “love.”
So think with me about the ways we can be confused about God’s love for you and me.
God’s love isn’t like an angry parent. Early in life we experience parents; most of them love us, but all of them are imperfect. Even the best parents have to teach us, sometimes in ways we don’t grasp. God’s love is like a father who knows everything that you’ve done wrong and loves to welcome you home. He is like this father whose formerly rebellious son came back home:
But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. Luke 15:20-23 (ESV)
God’s love shows that you are worthwhile and valuable even when you feel you are not. As you grow up, the lies of the world can make you feel you’re not valuable. But God declares His love, delight, and happiness in His creation, especially for the humble, the downcast, and the depressed. You are His treasure.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. Genesis 1:27,31 (ESV)
God loves you even when you doubt. It is completely normal to wonder about the truths God tells us, but they are still truths. Facts like His power over creation and His patient enduring of evil and suffering make us doubt we are believing the right things. We should doubt ourselves and our understanding, and trust the simple, plain truth that God loves and has moved to solve our worst problems — our disconnection from Him now and after we die. We see Jesus’s love for doubters when Thomas didn’t trust the words of the other disciples, and Jesus came to pay him a special visit:
Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” John 20:26-27 (ESV)
God knows your errors and sin and moves toward you. We all will choose actions and thoughts we know are terrible. God’s heart is tender to sinners who admit their wrong and turn to Him for mercy. We are naturally inclined to think our sins push God away, but when He sees you, He is moved by compassion. He never condones your sin, but promises to give you strength to fight it and live as you were designed. Dane Ortlund explains the scriptures in this way:
The cumulative testimony of the four Gospels is that when Jesus Christ sees the fallenness of the world all about him, his deepest impulse, his most natural instinct, is to move toward that sin and suffering, not away from it. (Gentle and Lowly)
God loves you even in the suffering of life. Through the years we will experience difficulties, and you might be tempted to feel like suffering proves God doesn’t love you. But difficulties of life caused by our failings and this fallen world prove only that God allows evil even while He loves. Let the Psalms remind you that the steadfast, never-stopping love of the Lord never ends. And even in the pain, He is your fortress and safe place. David wrote this to describe God’s love:
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalms 23:4 (ESV)
God’s love is more reliable than my love. Regardless of so many ways of confusing it, love originates with God not us. And it doesn’t rest on our abilities, our feelings, or our strength. “If we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13)
God’s love is extreme. Jesus said God loved the world so much and to such a great extent, that He did something about it.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. — John 3:16-17 (ESV)
God is the ultimate first mover. His move that brought His love to this planet will someday overwhelm every objection. It animates every act of love in response. It illustrates to us who He is. It initiates a friendship between Him and us. It instructs us in our true design. It illuminates the world so we see the radiance of His love shining on every person. The love of God is our wonderful welcome to Him, and it is an irresistible invitation to join Him in loving all that He loves.