John 21:16 “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?”
Churchgoers are always so quick to acclaim their love for Jesus. It’s the subject of countless of their songs. It makes up the content of millions of their prayers. And it is the sole focus of many (many) sermons all over the country on any given Sunday. We’ve made it into a creed in Christendom – an almost mindless repetition during our worship services; “I love You, Jesus!” But do these people who claim love for their Savior really understand what they’re saying?
Our love for God isn’t all that spectacular. It was never the focus of either the Old or New Testament. True, we are commanded to love our God with all our heart, our soul, our mind and our strength – but this is far from being the theme of the Bible! The Bible doesn’t focus on our love for God, instead it focuses on His love for us!
(As a side note: loving God is not a feeling! It’s not a fondness toward Him or an emotional high during a church service. Jesus was very clear what it meant to love Him – “If you love Me, you will obey My commands.” You cannot claim to love Jesus and ignore what He has told you in His Word!)
Like I said, our love for Him isn’t all that amazing. Take a look at 1 John 4:10 – “In this is (real) love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” Do you see that? Our love for God isn’t a big deal! It’s not worth all the songs, sermons and repetitions that it’s been made into. It’s God’s love for us that should be understood!
The man who wrote this verse, John, had an excellent understanding of love. He is often referred to as the “apostle of love.” He’s the one who penned these amazing passages:
“Beloved, let us love one another. For love is of God, and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.”
“Perfect love has cast out fear…”
“By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
“God is love…”
And yet, for all his focus on love, John never once spoke of his own love for Jesus! Instead, he referred to himself simply as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” When it came to how much John loved Jesus – he never thought it was worth mentioning! John understood that his love for Jesus was nothing compared to Jesus’ love for Him!
And herein lies a truth that many Christian misunderstand. On several occasions I have heard well-meaning believers claim to love Jesus “no matter what!” As if there was ever going to be a time when Jesus didn’t deserve their love? Our love for God is not unconditional! He deserves every ounce of love that we can give Him (and so much more!) There has never been a moment in history when He didn’t deserve the love of mankind! Drawing again from the apostle of love – let’s look at the first phrase of 1 John 4:19 “We love Him because…” There you have it – we love Jesus because! We only love Him because we have a good reason to!
And what is this reason? Let’s finish verse 19 – “We love Him because He first loved us.” Our love for God may not be unconditional (He deserves every bit of it), but His love for us is completely unconditional and undeserved. It is because of His unconditional love towards us that he deserves our love! Verse 9 of the same chapter elaborates on the amazing, unconditional love of God: “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.”
We were sinners – He was righteous. We were worthless – He was worthy! We deserved nothing, but He gave us everything! Can you see how we’ve missed it by insisting on our love for Him while essentially ignoring His love for us? We need to keep a firm focus on how much God loves us. With this understanding - knowing just how much He loves us - it becomes almost effortless for our heart to respond “I love You, Jesus!”