Jesus loves us, this we know, for the Bible tells us so… right? I remember belting out the lyrics to “Jesus Loves Me” and taking them at face value as a tiny preschooler, and maybe you can, too. Yet somewhere between “YES! Jesus loves me!” and early adulthood, the treasure of this truth can get buried. All of a sudden, singing about being loved by Jesus collides with “I can only be loved if I perform at a high level,” or “how could Jesus love me after what I’ve done?” It’s as if we grab the shovel and start digging to bury the treasure of our Beloved-ness, and the chorus to “Jesus Loves Me” grows quieter and quieter.
Yes, we’ve come up with hundreds of solid (sounding) reasons Jesus couldn’t/wouldn’t love us. And they are all lies. Sometimes the lies are so deeply rooted we can no longer see the truth of His love. A few years ago, I met a woman who was interested in joining our church. I was helping her through the membership process and she began telling me that she had one issue that was holding her back in her relationship with God. I asked her what the issue was and she said, “I just can’t believe God could love me.”
Here was a woman who was seeking a relationship with God, but she just could not get past the roadblock of accepting love from God. She wanted to believe He loved her, but she had no frame of reference for receiving love. She’d spent her early life being abused and neglected by her biological parents and then bounced from foster home to foster home where she felt like a burden. Along the way, she made agreements with the voices that told her she wasn’t worthy of being loved. It was my honor and privilege to share with her that she’d been lied to. Not only was she worthy of being loved, but that she was already loved – at that very moment. There wasn’t a thing she needed to do to clean herself up or make herself more presentable to receive the full love of God. Whether she believed it or not, she was loved. She chose that day to believe it.
In his book, Life of the Beloved, Henri Nouwen says, “The world tells you many lies about who you are…. Every time you feel hurt, offended or rejected, you have to dare to say to yourself: ‘These feelings, as strong as they may be, are not telling me the truth about myself. The truth, even though I cannot feel it right now, is that I am the chosen child of God; precious in God’s eyes, called the Beloved from all eternity, and held safe in an everlasting embrace.’”
If there is someone who can teach us about being the Beloved, it is the disciple John. In the book of John, which he wrote, he refers to himself in the third person as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7; 21:20). Instead of saying “me” or “I,” he crowns himself with, “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” When John refers to himself with this title, it does not mean Jesus loved him more than the other disciples, rather, John is letting us know that he understands that he is fully loved by Jesus. It’s not a statement of comparison, it’s a statement of assurance.
Since John wrote the book, he could have chosen to refer to himself in a number of ways:
“The author of this book.”
“The disciple who rested on Jesus’ bosom.”
“The only disciple with Jesus as He hung on the cross.”
“The disciple Jesus chose to take care of his mother, Mary.”
“The disciple who beat Peter in a race to the tomb.” (He does let us know in John 20:4 that he ran faster than Peter, which I find hilarious.)
John had a lot of claims to “fame” that he could have used to refer to himself. Instead, he chose what he treasured most – knowing he was loved by Jesus. While he walked with Jesus, John experienced His love and it became his identity. In the gospel that bears his name, John’s name became unimportant. The only identifier important to him was that he was loved by Jesus.
Our God is the author and creator of love. And because He first loved us, we can love Him and love others. That same John tells us this in one of the five other books he wrote (1 John 4:19). We don’t have to muster the will to believe He loves us, we can receive the treasure in knowing He loved us first and He’ll love us to no end.
How can you really know God loves you? Spend time with Him in prayer and reading His love letter to you – the Bible. If you are not spending time in prayer and reading the Bible, but instead reaching for the ever-rising hurdles of our culture, there is no way you can uncover the treasure of knowing that you are truly loved by God. No. Way. We only hear the voices to whom we give an audience.
I could fill this post with scripture after scripture about God’s love for us. However, it’s not just hand-picked verses that tell us He loves us, but the ENTIRE BIBLE that is the story of God’s constant pursuit of us – that’s the story from Genesis to Revelation. It’s one long, generation after generation, love story. And sending His Son, Jesus, to die for us is the centerpiece of that story.
There is not a thing we need to do to make Jesus love us. He left Heaven to deliver that message to us personally. The earning, the striving, the perfectly crafted Tweets and the amount of Instagram followers — none of it makes a bit of difference in the love He lavishes on us. We need only receive the treasure of knowing we are loved.
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present not the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)
Lord, I’m tired of listening to what the world thinks of me and I want to give my full attention to you. I don’t want to ask for anything else right now except to know of the great love You have for me. Please open my eyes and my heart to the truth of Your love and quiet all competing voices. Thank You, Lord, for loving me and pursuing me.