We often say we love God. But we also realize we love Him because He loved us first (1 John 4:19). God was the first one to say “I love you.”
When God said “I love you,” the first time wasn’t on the cross with Jesus. That was certainly a huge exclamatory statement, something He had built up and created anticipation to show us, so we could see in one place just how much God loves us. But the first time He said it was when He created the first people. He wanted someone to love and He wanted someone to love Him back so He gave us free will. He walked with them and talked with them closely.
Then God said “I love you” again when He gave mercy to those first people for the sin they had committed, and when He promised to fix the sin problem.
As time continued to go on, God said “I love you” to many people. Some of the most obvious ways God said it are written in the Bible. Then God ultimately fulfilled His plan to fix the sin problem as He said “I love you” though Jesus.
Continuing to this day God says “I love you” to each and every one of us. He wants to love us. He wants us to love Him back. But never will God force you to love Him back. It is your choice whether or not you say, “I love you, too.”