There’s a particular saying about which I’ve been itching to write, and it’s not unfamiliar to the church-goers of my generation. Rather, it’s dreadfully popular. I’ve heard it in churches, seen it on the internet, and read it in books. Once or twice I’ve encountered a stranger whose only words for anyone around him made up this very statement.
“Jesus loves you!”
Why Say It?
Although there is some truth to this exclamation, “Jesus loves you!” is vague and simple enough to be easily misunderstood, underestimated, and overestimated by both believers and unbelievers. What message does it really bring to the world around us?
Is God’s love something you and I deserve? “Jesus loves you!” certainly doesn’t suggest the negative. Why would Jesus love me? If we carefully study the words of Scripture, shouldn’t that boggle our minds?
All of us have hated and disobeyed Him since the day of our birth.
- “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” ~Psalm 51:5
- “The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies.” ~Psalm 58:3
Nothing we do is good and right.
- “God looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. Everyone has turned away, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.” ~Psalm 53:2-3
“We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” ~Isaiah 64:6
We didn’t and couldn’t love Him first.
- “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God, All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” ~Romans 3:10-11
- “Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” ~1 John 4:7b-8
- “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.” ~John 6:44
According to Scripture, there isn’t anything about us or anything we have done that has made us worth loving.
Oftentimes, professing Christians (true and false converts both) will treat “Jesus loves you!” like a brief gospel presentation, but something vitally important is missing. We like to think of God as a God of love, and He is, but God’s love does not and cannot nullify His righteousness, just judgment, and holy wrath. It is very dangerous to ignore these elements of God’s character, because God always has and always will hate sin. Hebrews 10:31 says, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” His wrath burns against unrepentant sinners (Psalm 38:1-3).
I think the world likes to be told that God “loves” them, because it gives them the false assurance that He accepts them for who they are and it never really matters how they live. Unbelievers can’t and don’t understand what love truly is, so to simply tell them that God loves them will lead them to wrong conclusions.
What is Love?
When we tell the lost that God loves them, what sort of love do we mean? Do we remember or even know what the world thinks love ought to be?
Although worldly love has a sense of concern, a focus on caring, and a desire for the well-being of others, the self is the recipient of those things. The world will tell you that you have found love when someone makes you feel special and meets your needs (and wants). Worldly love is completely self-centered because it depends on what you can get out of someone rather than what you can do for others.
The world’s idea of love is defined by one’s feelings or attitude. God’s love is not.
God is love (1 John 4:8). He describes what it is, and man’s mere opinions can’t change that. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:4:7). Love cannot be defined, because it is an action; love is only love when it acts for the good of others, regardless of the cost. I like the way a friend of mine put it: “Love is not obtaining. Love is sacrifice. It is about giving until there is nothing left and then giving more.”
Two Kinds of Love
God has every right to do as He pleases and nothing He does is constrained by any rule of fairness. Everything the Lord does is just and fair, because He does it. Romans 9:19-21 says, “You will say to me then, ‘Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?’ On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, ‘Why did you make me like this,’ will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?”
Jesus loves all people, but not in the way most people think. God loves because He chooses to love (Deuteronomy 7:6-7) and because (I repeat) He is love. He isn’t under any obligation to love everyone the same. His love for believers is not synonymous with His love for unbelievers, and I aim to continue writing about that in my next post. (I know I haven’t expanded on this point at all today, but there’s a lot to cover and this is already so long).
There is so much about God that I don’t understand, but for no reason should I deem Him untrustworthy. I don’t know why the Lord does what He does, why He saves some but not others, why He loves the ways He loves, but I do know and believe that everything He does is for the glory of His name.