If familiarity breeds contempt then surely “Jesus loves me” can prompt an eye roll. The concept of the love of God is all too familiar, as well as nebulous. What does it mean to be loved by someone you’ve never seen, never heard, never touched or been touched by? “Yes, yes. I know. But what does it mean for me right now? How does it help me right here?”
Into this numb cynicism we hear God speak. His voice is both solemn and fervent, ancient and urgent. “I have loved you with an everlasting love.”
An everlasting love.
His love did not spring up when you were born. The source of his love is within Himself--the Triune God--three persons of perfect beauty, glory and goodness. They are each worthy of absolute love and they each love each other with such absolute love that they are bound so tightly as to be One. Through countless ages outside of time they have loved and been loved, known and been known. Out of this self-sustaining love fest came a fountain of creative energy and more love was born.
I have loved you.
It was out of his own love that his love for you has sprung, like a cascading rush of water down a steep incline. In joy and hope and an inconceivable vulnerability, God created the world and loved her. But his love was not directed en masse. His love is personal. Paul writes that Jesus, “loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). His love is personal to you and also personal to him. “It is a strange and beautiful eccentricity of the free God,” writes Tozer, “that He has allowed His heart to be emotionally identified with men.” Binding himself to us in love, he is emotionally tied up with our well-being. And this is what caused the cataclysm.
For we did not reciprocate. There was something in his love that we did not like. That self-sufficient love implied that it was not our good qualities that prompted his love, but his. Our own loveliness was moot, as he loved us with or without it. He did not fawn, he did not flatter, and in a shocking display of arrogance we threw his perfect love back in his face.
In The Philadelphia Story, Tracy Lord is a woman of impenetrable morals and harsh judgments. Her husband loves her and invites her to let down her guard, to be loved in her frailties. But he mourns, “Your sense of inner divinity wouldn’t allow that. This goddess must and shall remain intact!” Like her, we didn’t actually want love. We wanted worship.
But this is a perverse, twisted thing. God is perfect. We are not. God deserves worship. We do not. If God worshiped us the door of reality would be unhinged. It would shatter the integrity of the created order. But we didn’t want to share his love if we couldn’t also share his divinity. We plugged our ears to any talk of our sin, believing that if he considered us flawed in any way then his love for us was somehow tainted.
What we didn’t realize was that this is the place where love grows wings. Into our enmity, our delusion and conceit, “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
The night before his death, knowing what was about to happen, Jesus spoke to his disciples. What did he want them to know? “If anyone loves me...my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” Later, in the darkness of the garden, his knuckles pressed into the hard ground, what did he pray for? “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me.” Even while hanging from the cross, shuddering under the full wrath of God, what hope did he have for the broken man beside him? “Today you will be with me in paradise.”
In death, he was thinking of being close to each one of us. It was his great mission, hope, and prayer. And God was so pleased with this that he answered Jesus’ prayer in manifold ways: “For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.”
Yes, familiarity can breed contempt, but it doesn’t have to. Dane Ortlund writes, “It is impossible for the affectionate heart of Christ to be overcelebrated, made too much of, exaggerated. It cannot be plumbed. But it is easily neglected, forgotten. We draw too little strength from it.” The refrain of Scripture is the love of God for his people. God’s incessant, inexorable and unabashed message is that He loves us. He wants his love for you to feel familiar, like a sunrise or a favorite song. Familiar like a heartbeat.
Jesus loves you.
Jesus loves you.
Jesus loves you.