“For the Bible tells me so” is for many, their child-like (not childish) response. And this is ok – for children. But let’s grow in our understanding. This question is not the same thing as asking, “Do you love Jesus?” Some people would answer no, they do not love Jesus, and yet believe that Jesus loves them. Why so? Because they say, “he died for me.”
Sticker-Shock: If you don’t love Jesus then you have no assurance that he loves you! That may hit you like a 7.0 on the Richter scale and rattle you a bit, but it’s true. I’ll show you from Jesus himself.
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you” – John 15:12-14
Let’s state something that, for many, comes as a surprise: The Bible does not record Jesus saying to anyone, “I love you.” For Jesus, love is something far deeper and goes beyond mere sentimental expression, and cannot be taken for granted. So let’s break down Jesus’ words to his disciples as he gave them on the night that he would die for them.
1. Jesus predicates the command that his disciples “love one another” (that is, all other lovers of Jesus Christ) based upon his love for them – “as I have loved you.”
The disciples will come to know soon the meaning of this. But for now, they have no idea that a cross for Jesus is just a few hours away. Still, they can accept this because sacrificing one’s own life for another is, in anyone’s mind, an act of love. Jesus speaks in the past tense, “as I have loved you,” because Scripture often declares things in the present that are yet in the future – It’s a done deal! Though Jesus has not died for them he can catapult his statement into the future over their heads as if he has already died for them. His impending death for his disciples is so sure that he can speak of it in the past tense.
2. Jesus invokes “friends” as the recipients of his love. But you are not a friend of Jesus if you do not keep his commandments. And if you do not keep his commandments, then you have no assurance that he loves you by dying for you. Clearly then, Jesus does not love everyone – he does not, in a real sense of the scope of scripture, love everyone equally. You cannot be a lover of the world without making yourself an enemy of God (James 4:4; 1 John 2:15). You cannot suppose to love what money can do for you and yet think that Jesus still knows you with a covenantal love (Matt. 6:24, 7:21-23). You cannot minimize your level of commitment to him and still expect Jesus’ level of commitment to you to remain all lovey-dovey (John 2:24, 6:66, 67).
In John’s letter, he says that you know Jesus loves you IF you confess that Jesus is the Son of God (1 John 4:15, 16). In fact, if you do not believe that Jesus is the Son of God and the only way of salvation with faith and repentance of sins, the wrath of God remains upon you (John 3:36). You cannot reject Christ and still say, “Jesus loves me.”
3. Jesus only loves those who will keep his commandments – Jesus will only “lay down his life” for those who prove their friendship to Jesus, for those who are his sheep (John 10:14-16). Notice then that Jesus is not saying, “I’ll be your friend if you keep my commandments.” It is not Jesus who needs to prove his love, his loyalty, his friendship, to his disciples. But rather it is they who need to prove their friendship to him. This is how they will know that Jesus loves them – “if” they keep his commandments. In other words, if you and I do not keep his commandments, proving our friendship to Jesus, then we have no assurance that Jesus loves us. Do you want assurance that Jesus loves you? Then love Jesus and all other lovers of Jesus as well (1 John 4:17-21).
The Word does teach that God loves sinners, in general (John 3:16), but with the same verse God will see to it that those who do not love his Son, whom he graciously sent, “will perish.” With a greater understanding, we sing, “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me to love Jesus – and that I will do.” I love him because he first loved me (1 John 4:19). But my knowledge that he loves me is based upon whether or not I “obey his commandments,” “keep his commandments” and “overcome the world” – which means to turn away from the sin that the world loves (1 John 5:1-5). Only those who have been born of God, first, are then capable of loving Jesus. And only those who have been “born of God” can have assurance that Jesus loves them (1 John 5:1-5, 13).
Q. How do you know that Jesus loves you?
A. Do you love Jesus?