For God to love us that he gave his own Son implies that God had the free will and choice. This is why many New Testament letters call us “chosen” or “elect.” God decided to love us. He did not have to love us. Nothing forced God to pick us. Love, by its very meaning, is a choice. If love is forced, then it is not love. Love means that I do not have to do it. Love is my choice to act. Love is doing what is in other people’s best interest by my own voluntary choice. If you hold a gun to my head and tell me to give to the poor, I am not acting out of love but compulsion. Love demands that my actions are voluntary.
Therefore, when the apostle John says that “we love because God first loved us” (1 John 4:9) means that we have the ability to choose God. If we cannot choose God, then it is not possible for us to love God. If we are totally unable to choose God, then we can never love God because we do not have the will/ability to choose him.
The reverse is also true. If we cannot choose to reject God or leave God, then our relationship with God cannot be described as love. If my wife cannot leave me then our relationship is not built on love. She is forced by some mechanism to be with me. But because she can leave but chooses not to, she is showing love. If she chooses to leave me, we cannot say that she never loved me in the first place. That is simply false. She did love me and showed it. But now she chose not to love me. Love is about our ability to choose good and to choose not to do good. If we can never leave God (stop loving him) after choosing to love him, then our relationship with God is coerced.
God loves us because he did not have to love us, but chose to love us. God has the ability to stop loving us. But he chooses to continue to love us.
We love God because we do not have to love Him, but choose to love Him. We have the ability to stop loving God. That does not mean we were never believers or never loved God. We did, but chose to stop. But we can choose to continue to love Him.
Just another reason I am not a Calvinist.