If you ever when found yourself in a church before you were the age of ten, or if your mother (or any childhood caregiver) had any Christian exposure while she was raising you, you have heard the song, “Jesus Loves Me”. This song has a unique history. It was originally written by Susan Bartlett in the form of a poem in her novel entitled Say and Seal, as comfort to a dying child. This is how the poem reads in that novel:
Jesus loves me—this I know,
For the Bible tells me so;
Little ones to him belong,—
They are weak, but he is strong.
Jesus loves me—loves me still,
Though I’m very weak and ill;
From his shining throne on high,
Comes to watch me where I lie.
Jesus loves me—he will stay,
Close beside me all the way.
Then his little child will take,
Up to heaven for his dear sake.
Two years after it was published (in 1862), William Bradbury put the poem to music and added the refrain that we all now know. Verses have been added throughout the last 150 years, and many of us grew up singing the verse:
Jesus loves me when I’m good,
When I do the things I should.
Jesus loves me when I’m bad,
Though it makes Him very sad.
Does that strike you as strange? I cannot help but wonder what the intention of the author is here. Is it manipulation to influence children to obey? Is it intended as assurance that we will not be unloved when we make a mistake? Is it provision to live however we want, with the caveat of only making Jesus sad?
It is a glorious truth that Jesus loves you and me. It is also a glorious truth that we cannot earn or defer Jesus’ love for us based on our actions. And it is a sobering reality that when we sin, we “grieve the Holy Spirit”, we put Jesus back up on the cross, and we exemplify a love for something other than God and His provisions.
There is great comfort in the truth that Jesus loves us. But in our narcissistic society, I would argue that few people need to be assured of that fact. We need, however, to focus on loving Jesus. Put the emphasis back on Jesus and off ourselves. Unfortunately, however, there is a temptation and danger to lift Biblical principles out of the Scripture, add our own values and interpretations to these principles, and then lay them back in scripture and use them to discredit other teachings. For example: “God is love” (1 John 4.8). Love, in USA 2015 means that we do not discipline our children, we do define sin, we do not make truth claims because everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and we tolerate everyone’s disposition and belief system – validating them as “true for them”. We consider unconditional love the epitome of love: to be loved, accepted and affirmed no matter what one does.
It is a warm-fuzzy, feel good emotion. It is affirmation and positive thoughts irregardless of actions. It’s a big load of you-know-what.
If we want to make sure our eternity, we must let the Bible tell us what the Bible means. So, Bible, what is love?
“And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it.”
– 2 John 1.6
“For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.”
– 1 John 5.3
No, we do not earn God’s love by being obedient. But we exemplify our love for Him by obeying Him. The Bible says,
“Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.”
– Heb 13.4
So if we love God, we do not have sex outside of marriage, we do not live with our significant other outside of marriage, and we do not entertain lust in our hearts. We choose to honor marriage and the gift of sex and family as a gift from God that are to be upheld within the bond of marriage! Period. And we uphold this is true and right, and do not tolerate it as OK for another believer.
These deeds of the flesh are prohibited in Gal 5:
Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
– Gal 5.21-21
Ok, so maybe sorcery is not a huge temptation for you. But how about outbursts of anger? Envying? Drunkenness? If we love God, we choose to love the things that He loves and hate the things that He hates. He does no welcome us into His presence if we choose to love the things that He hates. John gives us much comfort,
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.
– 1 John 2.1-3
We are all going to sin. Perfection is not something that will be attained while we are here on the Earth. But the goal of Scripture is to guide us, through the enabling of the Holy Spirit, to strive not to sin. To strive to obey. To strive to love God to the best of our abilities. But when we do mess up, Jesus will advocate for us, if we repent and seek to keep His commandments.
So yes, Jesus does love you and me when we are good and when we are bad. But the greater issue here is: how do we love Jesus? Are we seeking to know Him, serve Him and honor Him? Or are we just laying back and letting Him do all the work? Is it all about you today, or is it all about Jesus?