In her new memoir, Natural Woman, the American singer-songwriter Carole King recalled the beginning of her performing career. She was already well-known as a songwriter, penning songs that had been recorded by the likes of Bob Dylan and Aretha Franklin. But she had not broken through as a performer in her own right.
Her breakthrough came in the opportunity to tour with a rising star named James Taylor. King recalled that each night before she came on stage for her set, Taylor would tell the crowd about her. He reminded them that they had heard her songs before, sung by some of their favorite artists. He talked about how he loved her poetry and creativity, of the bright future he saw for her as a performer. And then, Carole would come out to sing.
She titled the chapter that tells this story “Pre-Loved”. She said that Taylor made sure she was loved by the audience before she ever came on stage. He made sure they were disposed to love her before she performed anything.
That’s a tiny glimpse of the grace of God towards His children.
When God chose Israel, He said,
“The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you….” (Dt. 6:6-8)
Chosen and loved not by qualification or performance, but by grace.
When Paul described the redemptive purposes of God in salvation, he wrote,
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,which he lavished upon us….” (Eph. 1:3-8)
Blessed with every spiritual blessing, adopted as His family, redemption accomplished, grace lavished…not by moral excellence, but before the foundation of the world.
“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Rom. 8:29-30)
The word foreknew carries the idea of “pre-loved”. Before we experience anything else of God’s saving purposes in time or have the life to respond religiously, we are loved by Him in eternity.
Some of our Christian family embrace this truth with smug & condescending pride. Others seem frightened to consider it, concerned to protect the freedom of human choice. Still others, uncomfortable with mystery, simply act as if it were not there, subtly editing the Scriptures to ignore its presence.
But since this comes from our Father’s heart, there is no cause for pride or need for fear. It cannot, must not be ignored. We cannot edit out of God’s Word that which we cannot explain of God’s truth. Neither can we only use it with our own definitions.
The God of the ages pre-loves. Apart from – and prior to — our achievements or moral performance or religious activity or church involvement, the Father loves. Apart from—and in spite of—our sin and failures and screw-ups and messed-up-ness, the Father loves.
Before we come on stage, our Father pre-loves us.
Before we succeed or fail, our Father pre-loves us. .
No matter the reviews of our performance, this truth remains: our Father has pre-loved us.
Once the Father pre-loves us, He never stops loving us.
Since the Father pre-loves us, we can simply relax and live and sing His song all our days and into forever.