"By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins." (1 John 4:9-10)When love is something that resides only in our hearts, it does little good to anyone. Solomon said, "Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed." (Proverbs 27:5 NKJV) Our affections and attitudes towards others find their meaning when they are expressed and communicated in a way that others can experience and understand. It does no good to love someone if you never communicate that love in both words and actions. Love must be demonstrated to be understood.
The same is true with God. God loves us and we experience and recognize that love when it intersects with our lives in ways that makes a difference in us. The greatest expression of love was shown when the Father sent His only Son to live and die in our place that we might be reconciled back to God. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." (John 3:16) The phrase, "God so loved," is not in reference to how much He loved us, rather it depicts the manner in which God demonstrated His love for us: "For God in this way loved the world..." God loved us by doing something for us.
There are two important thing we must understand about the nature of love. First is that love loves first. The love of God was demonstrated towards us, not after we first loved God, but before our hearts were ever turned in love towards Him. God loved us even before we loved Him. Sometimes we withhold love waiting for the other person to make the first move. For example, we withhold forgiveness waiting for the other person to be the first to say "I'm sorry." However, true love does not act so. Love is not a reaction but a choice to do what is right and good towards another person even if they don't respond in kind. Love reaches out without regard to how the other person is feeling towards us. Love chooses to love first.
The second import truth about love is that love loves without regard to the other person. God loved us, not when we were perfect, but when we were sinners and enemies of His kingdom. "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us... For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life." (Romans 5:8, 10) Sometimes we only love when those who receive our love are worthy of our love. We love those who are lovely and loveable. However, God loves the unlovely and the unlovable. God loved us even when we weren't lovely, lovable, or worthy. He loved us when we weren't deserving of His love. Love loves, not because someone is worthy or deserving, but because it chooses to love.
Love loves first and love loves the unlovely. Is this the nature of our love?