More than desiring our salvation, God desires relationship with us. Often, Christians cite, as cause for their devotion to God and adherence to Christianity, their own inherent imperfection and sinful condition and requisite need for justification, sanctification, and salvation.
Although these tenants and realities are true, mere gratitude for salvation is not enough to serve as the foundation for a functional, let alone intimate, relationship.
I appreciate when people do nice things for me. I am grateful for the provision of my parents, for gifts friends give me – but my love for those people is manifold and cannot be traced to either appreciation or gratitude alone.
There is no quantity or variety of gratitude that could be called love.
Love is, rather, a position of openness, vulnerability, dedication, affection, and trust toward another. This is a condition that must be cultivated, tended, and allowed to flourish. It does not, in truth, trace its origin to one specific event or expression, and though we can love someone, and love how giving they are, we cannot love, in a relational sense, the gift they have given itself or their act of giving it.
I am not in love with salvation, and I do not love God because He saved me. I love Him for who He is.
He wills for His children to be saved, but also to be free, to enjoy grace and peace, to know their worth, and to be healed from all manner of spiritual, physical, and emotional afflictions. Because this is His will, He is disposed to give good gifts and as any loving Father express Himself any number of ways. It is not these expressions themselves that make God worthy of love, they only demonstrate that which is true: that God created us, chose us, loved us before we chose Him.
Indeed, God loves us even if we do not love Him back.
The Bible is clear that God has been at work in our lives since the beginning, is involved in innumerable ways, and thinks very highly of us. He loves us very deeply, so also consider that when we say “I am depraved and unworthy, and I must be eliminated, reduced to nothing so God may be allowed to work through me” – it grieves God, as His intent appears rather that we allow Him to cultivate a strong character in us while preserving our unique gifting and personality, rather than taking us over.
Thusly a few things are important to think and pray on: loving God does not mean merely being entranced by the appreciation we justifiably feel for having been saved, and accepting that salvation itself does not necessarily mean relinquishing the entirety of our unique personhood out of disgust or fear that our nature will in some way offend God.
God knows us thoroughly and loves us completely. His desire is that we come to know Him accurately so that we might enter into relationship with Him and begin to trust Him and allow ourselves to become more open with Him, in order that our relationship be characterized by love.
Sin therefore is important to think of, not as disobedience toward an authoritarian ruler, but rather as transgression against a patient and loving Father. It pulls us out of right relationship, it undermines trust, and it disappoints God because He sees that is not who we truly are, nearly as much as it disappoints God when we then assert that it is who we truly are.
God desires for us a great deal more than salvation from sin and its consequence. He desires for us to know Him through right relationship until our love for Him compels us to love ourselves and others in the same way and see beyond the lies we are often preoccupied in believing about our own capacity for beneficial change, wholesome affection, and righteous action.
As the Bible encourages that we move beyond the milk of early belief, we must mature in our understanding and desire until we see that mere gratitude is not enough.
It does not matter if we appreciate the cross if we do not love the Father. We must be more than merely saved.