The eternal nature of God is difficult for our finite minds to grasp.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” Revelation 1:8
God’s nature is eternal, and so is His love. When God wants to emphasize something in His Word He employs repetition. A perfect example of this is in Psalm 136.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
Can you guess how many times David repeats “his steadfast love endures forever?” Five? Ten? Actually, he repeats this phrase twenty six times in this one psalm alone!
Eternal Means Forever
Merriam-Webster defines the world eternal as “Having no beginning and no end in time; lasting forever.” There are a number of Hebrew and Greek words that mean eternal; they are also sometimes translated “everlasting.”
When we think about eternity, we usually think about the future – that we will be with God in heaven forever. But eternity encompasses all time – not just the future, but also the past and the present as well.
God told the Israelites:
I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. Jeremiah 31:3b
Jesus’ death on the cross was the culmination of God’s plan to reconcile His people to Him for all time. Those who believe are given the gift of eternal life.
“And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” John 17:3
The eternal love of God in Jesus Christ is a love that is outside of time. While we humans are constrained by time, when we are in Christ, we are able to love in a way that also transcends time.
Eternal Love Includes the Past
God has loved us since the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:3-6). He said of Jeremiah that He knew him before He even formed him (Jeremiah 1:5.)
As parents, we have known our children since the womb. Mothers often note personality traits from in utero. One of my children was very stubborn and refused to turn from a breach position. He has shown himself to be a person of strong convictions. Another child did acrobatics in utero, and now loves to dance.
Our children learn to love because we love them. God is the source of that love (1 John 4:19) – He is love (1 John 4:16)
As children grow, they each become tiny object lessons in the reality of sin nature. I am sure your children have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23!) Yet you continue to love them, just as God loves you.
Christ-like love for our children includes intimate knowledge of their pasts and a focus on forgiveness and guidance.
Eternity is Right Now
“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. John 15: 9
Jesus Christ was fully man. A real flesh and blood man, who was held down to earth by the same gravity you and I are. A man who needed to eat, to sleep, to breathe. Yet He was also fully God.
Jesus was in the NOW – fully present and responding in real time to real needs – yet at the same time He was eternal – forever existing, forever acting.
Christ’s love was, and is, both now and forever. When He trod on soil, He loved moment by moment, responding to each need as it came before Him.
Think of the children whom the disciples tried to push away (Mark 10:13-16.) Jesus knew they needed Him in that moment. So He stopped what He was doing and welcomed them. Yet He also knew that their need for Him was forever. Thus He admonished the adults in their lives to let them, and all children to follow, come to Him.
God loves you right now. Exactly where you are, exactly how you look, exactly how you feel. You don’t have to dress up for Him. This is unconditional love. It is the kind of love God calls us to have for our children.
For parents, right now love is love that gets us up every morning to make breakfast for small children, that stops to take a phone call from your college student, that addresses a heart issue in siblings even though it is time for dinner.
Christ-like love for our children means we are willing to put our agendas on hold to love our children as they are, even when it is inconvenient.
Eternal Love Looks to the Future
The most perfect representation of love is Jesus’ death on the cross. He did this so that we could be reconciled to God forever and have a future with Him.
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” John 14:1-3
As parents we want the very best for our children’s futures. We sometimes get distracted, thinking that this has to do with their future work and relationships. It isn’t that these are unimportant, but that we are being short-sighted if that is all we focus on.
Parenting with an eternal perspective means that we are mindful of our children’s hearts. We are thinking about their relationship with God, and digging to understand the root cause of their sin. Eternal love for our children leaves no room for bandaid solutions to problems.
It is a question of perspective. If, as a mother, I am focusing on guiding my child with only today or tomorrow in mind, I will only look at his immediate actions and the immediate results. If he does not put away his toys I might fuss and issue a practical consequence. But if I am parenting with eternity in mind, I look deeper. I ask myself, “What character struggle is going on in this child that is making him choose to be irresponsible in this area? What is the sin here?” While the consequence might be the same, the tone and goal of the corrective conversation changes.
Christ-like love for our children considers their hearts and their relationship with God.
Love Never Ends
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 1 Corinthians 13:8
Christ-like love thinks about eternity. The past, the present and the future are all bound up in the eternal love of Christ. Parenting with eternity in mind focuses on the heart.
May we love our children with His love!