Jesus Loves Me?

{By Michael Vuke}

Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong, they are weak but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me, yes, Jesus loves me, yes, Jesus loves me—the Bible tells me so.

photo credit: sergis blog via photopin cc

You can’t go wrong with “Jesus Loves Me”, can you; many of us cut our teeth on this song, with its comforting assurances and spiritual sedition.

Wait…come again?

What could I possibly have against Jesus Loves Me? Next thing you know, I’ll be blasting “Jesus Loves the Little Children” or “Amazing Grace”!

I don’t like Jesus Loves Me because it teaches a fundamentally incorrect way of knowing God: The Bible.

Okay, that probably didn’t help my case. Let’s break this down, shall we?

Jesus died and rose again for one reason: to make it possible for us to have a close relationship with God again. He accomplished this by dying in our place as a punishment for us breaking God’s law, for a just God cannot let wrong deeds go unpunished and remain just. Thus, Jesus in our place. God did all of this because He loves us—passionately and madly. Like a groom loves his bride.

Through the Law and sacrifices, God provided a way for us to experience a form of a relationship with Him, but when Jesus did what He came to do, He cut out the middle man. We now can have a relationship directly with God. No temple veil separates us, and no man stands between us and God.

The Bible says that. However, what the Bible does not say is to know God and experience Him solely through the Bible or the comparable writings at the time those books were written (the Pentateuch, the Talmud, etc.). There are plenty of examples of using these writings to learn more about God and His nature, and indeed to experience Him, but these experiences are never by themselves.

I know that Jesus loves me because I have experienced His love, not because a book, however perfect, tells me He loves me.

If you grew up your whole life knowing that your parents were alive, but you never interacted with them or had any sort of feedback from them, save for a book which said that they loved you, you would not believe that your parents loved you. If you believed that they did because that book said so, it would be because you had a fundamental mis-understanding of the nature of love.

Growing up, how did I know that my parents loved me? I knew not because they wrote me a letter that said so, but because they hugged and kissed me, fed me, took care of me, played with me, were around me, helped me in hard times, celebrated with me, and yes, they gave me cards on my birthday that told me how much they loved me.

I knew my parents loved me because I had experienced them and their love, not because of those cards.

The same should be able to be said for God as well. All the letters and cards in the world mean nothing if you haven’t experienced the love that inspired Him to write those notes.

I believe that this is one of the reasons that we see such a exodus from the idea of God going on—we’re told our whole lives that Jesus loves us, and that God loves us and wants to be with us, yet the only tools that we are equipped with are the letters God wrote. We aren’t taught how to connect with God on a real level, so we burn out and are frustrated that a loving God would feel so distant.

Compare the reading of letters to the experience that John Mark McMillan describes:

He is jealous for me, loves like a hurricane, and I am a tree bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy. And all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory and I realize just how beautiful you are and how great your affections are for me…We are His portion and He is our prize, drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes. If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking. So heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss, and my heart turns violently inside of my chest. I don’t have time to maintain these regrets, when I think about the way that He loves us.”

My question to you is, do you ‘know’ that God loves you because a book says it, or have you been ravaged by His all-consuming love? 

Comments

  1. I looked at this post and went “What! Is this this REALLY what he’s saying?” As it seems it is, I will try to answer it as much as I can.

    First of all, the Bible is God’s word, truth itself, written by the One who is Truth. In the Bible we have the eternal, unchangeable truth telling us that He loves us.

    And just because He tells us that isn’t enough reason for us to believe it.

    Really?

    How would we know of God’s true nature except through the Bible? How would we know of the great proof of His life, Jesus’ death on the cross, except through the Bible?

    I understand the high value you place on experiencing God’s love. It’s a wonderful thing to live under and experience moment by moment. But there are ‘spiritual valleys’ in everyone’s Christian walk. What kind of assurance of God’s love do they need then? That they felt something a long time ago that they don’t feel anymore? That’s a lot of assurance. Feelings, also, can waver and be deceitful. Take away the assurance of knowing something just because God says it, and you’re left wavering on your feelings. Does God love you? Um, do you feel loved right now? Are you saved? Well, do you feel saved right now?

    But God can never waver or be deceitful and His living, inspired word, cannot either. The true assurance of God’s love that we need is that the living and enduring word of truth says so. In this word, God has shown how greatly he loves us. And though the experience of His love will come as a beautiful gift, you know it first because God said so and your assurance of this is always that God said so and spoke of the way it was demonstrated – through the Bible.

    This is how we know what love is. Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. (1 John 3:16) We can truly know this not on the basis of feelings or experience, but because the Truth has said so.

    • So much of what the above person said. Christianity is a relationship with a holy God, and as any relationship based on “feeling” is in for an unfortunate ending. Marriages survive not because of steamy love and emotional feelings, but because of explicitly articulate committments [known as wedding vows, among other options] between the two parties. The same holds for our love of Christ. If we love Him/If he loves us only when we feel it, to be brutally honest, I probably would give up on the whole salvation thing. If you haven’t experienced this already, life is a graveyard for feeling of love and happiness. The only way we make it through is by having an explicit commitment from our savior IN THE BIBLE that we are loved, and that He will never leave us.

      • To the 2nd Anon

        Thank you for sharing, even though you believed you disagreed with me; that takes courage, and I appreciate it.

        There are a couple of things I would like to say. First, if you haven’t read my response to the first Anon (that you replied to), please read that–it might help clear some things up.

        Secondly, I agree with what you said, with a couple of amendments, which I’ve put in non-italics below.

        “Christianity is a relationship with a holy God, and as any relationship based on “feeling” is in for an unfortunate ending. Indeed; if you go by what you ‘feel like’ at the moment, you are in for a painful life, and your spiritual walk will fall apart. Marriages survive not because of steamy love and emotional feelings, but because of explicitly articulate committments [known as wedding vows, among other options] between the two parties. This is true. The flip side is also true–I would hope that someone would not enter into a wedding covenant with someone that they did not love. When I marry, you can rest assured there will be plenty of steamy love and emotional feelings. There will be a commitment though, for when the moments come that one of us is angry, or upset, or tired. The same holds for our love of Christ. If we love Him/If he loves us only when we feel it, to be brutally honest, I probably would give up on the whole salvation thing. I did. Growing up, I had a “head knowledge” of God. I could quote you entire chapters of the Bible, but I didn’t have the relationship–the experiences with God. I said “forget it” and walked out on God in middle school. So what you said is true, and the flip is true as well–there needs to be that balance. If you haven’t experienced this already, life is a graveyard for feeling of love and happiness. The only way we make it through is by having an explicit commitment from our savior IN THE BIBLE that we are loved, and that He will never leave us. Definitely. Yet there is also no reason to believe something if you have never had any indication that it is real. I believe God and trust Him and what He says in the Bible because I read things in the Bible, and then God delivered. He showed me that He loved me, and that He would work all things for His good, and I now have a strong faith and trust in God and all His promises.

        Does that make sense and clear some things up?

        • Michael,
          I preface what I am about to say with the note that I respect you as a person and respect your intent in writing this article; Your response did make sense. Unfortunately, I still have some issue with what you said.

          You seem to hold to an idea of Christianity that necessitates an “experience” of God, or God’s influence, or some divine intervention in order to somehow legitimize your faith. You said verbatim in your article that “I know that Jesus loves me because I have experienced His love, not because a book, however perfect, tells me He loves me.” That’s actually quite problematic.

          Firstly, because it eliminates faith from the equation. The beauty of Christianity is that we know just enough to believe, and just too little to actually comprehend what we believe. That’s the threshold where faith is required. Faith that this invisible entity we pray to actually exists, faith that an afterlife isn’t just a figment of our imagination, faith that all the crap we walk through in life has meaning. There is no possible way you can tell me you’ve always felt the love of God in your life, because no one has. And it is in those moments of darkness where we have to believe BY FAITH in the words of the only evidence of our Savior’s existence we have: the Bible. If you deny or caveat the complete sufficiency of Scripture to communicate the message of redemption to us, I think that’s fundamentally incorrect. Feelings are a nice bonus, but the Bible is what tells us that God loves us, that God exists.

          Second issue. re: balance, I don’t think that word means what you think it means. You can’t “balance” relying on the inspired Word of God with an emotional high. Someone’s already tried that. They’re known as Mormons. I’m not saying that an emotional connection with God is welcome, a pleasant, refreshing taste of paradise to come; it is! But this life is hard, and if we live day to day waiting for God’s “sloppy wet kiss” on our forehead, we’re living for disappointment. Tangential comment here: that’s the big problem I have with much of modern worship music; they make the Christian experience out to be some erotic, utopian, love so amazing, wonderland. IT’S NOT. We are promised by Christ that we will endure sufferings of many kinds, and I can’t help but wonder if the apathy of the Western church has made many Christians forget that reality. Try living in China or Iran for a few years; I promise you they’re not relying on “sloppy wet kisses” to get them through. It’s the Word of God and his Word alone.

          Thirdly and finally, because you really like this parents analogy. I say this with all politeness and respect, but that analogy is fundamentally flawed and here’s why: you can see your parents, you can’t see God. You know your parents exist a priori, God’s not the same. So when you say that you don’t need love letters from your parents, you’re entirely correct, because you have the ability to directly attribute an act of love to the physical entity extending it. Your sensory perception tells you that your parents did this for you and logically, they did it out of love. Yay everyone’s happy. We don’t have that with God. We can’t directly point to an event and say God did this, but we sure love to point to hard times and blame God. We are sensory creatures, and when we are rid of those capacities, we need an external source that allows us to tie an effect to a Cause. The Bible ties the effect of God’s love to the Cause of God’s being. Parenthetical note here: but we kind of wouldn’t even know who the heck God was without The Bible, but that’s a whole different can of worms. Point being: You can’t compare your parents to God at all, and you certainly cannot say that God’s love overarchs the necessity for complete reliance on Scripture.

          • Hey again, Anon2 :)

            You’ve put forward some interesting claims about what I am saying, however, as comment sections aren’t really a conducive forum for an exchange of ideas, I won’t attempt to clarify myself further than I already have to you. I honestly do appreciate what you are trying to do, but don’t see that seeking to clear my name here will really help anyone out. I am more than willing to talk with you about this if you would like. If you go to http://www.michaelvuke.com/contact-me/ and fill out that form, then I’ll be more than willing to email with you a little bit, so long as we keep it friendly (I’d post my email here, but I don’t feel like a) giving it to an anonymous person and b) having it picked up by the spambots)

            Without going into detail, but for the sake of readers, I will simply say that most of what was claimed that I meant and most of the conclusions drawn from my statements above have resulted from either a) me failing to define terms, so my words were unintentionally taken out of context/distorted b) what I was trying to convey being mis-interpreted.

            I do stand by the validity, inerrantness, and need for the Bible. I am not advocating abandoning the Bible in need of seeking an emotional high, and I am not implying that God’s love is only there when times ‘are good’ (indeed, many of the times I have been closest to God and experienced His love the most were in ‘bad times’).

            Have a great day, Anon2, and thank you for sharing your thoughts.

            • Fair enough, Michael. Thanks for the exchange and I apologize if I crossed any lines of decency. This is an issue I feel [ironic, right?] very strongly about, and I’m glad to hear my concerns were apparently simple miscommunications.

    • To the 1st Anon (2nd Anon, I’ll reply in a second comment. I love you too–don’t worry),
      One, thank you for being willing to speak up when you disagreed with something; that doesn’t happen a lot of times, and no one (readers or writers) will grow without respectful disagreement and exchanges of ideas, so thank you!

      I’ll respond point by point to what you said, and defend myself and my message as best I can :)

      First, I totally agree with you about the nature of the Bible. The Bible is the inerrant word of God–everything you said in that sentence about the Bible’s nature I wholeheartedly agree with.

      “And just because He tells us that isn’t enough reason for us to believe it.”

      This is where the first mis-understanding happens. God telling us something should, in and of itself, be enough for us to believe. However, there is a huge gap between what should be and what often times is. In my personal life, there have been numerous times where I struggled and went through some insanely dark times. During those times, the words written a thousand years ago saying that God loved me, while as true as they ever have been, were not enough to allow me to believe that He could or did. This does not invalidate the truth of the Bible, or its value. It is simply the truth of what I experienced.

      You talked about how feelings come and go, and I agree. A faith based solely off feelings is doomed to fail.

      I also hold that love cannot be understood or appreciated when it is only seen through a letter.

      This is why in the post I talked about how there needed to be the joining of the two–the experiences and the reading.

      the Bible does not say is to know God and experience Him solely through the Bible or the comparable writings at the time those books were written (the Pentateuch, the Talmud, etc.). There are plenty of examples of using these writings to learn more about God and His nature, and indeed to experience Him, but these experiences are never by themselves.

      I knew my parents loved me because I had experienced them and their love, not because of those cards.

      A love letter is pointless if you do not know the person writing it. That is where the experiences come in. Emotions and feelings change. I am not always riding on a “high” of spiritual love and warm-fuzzies. But when I am in my worst times, I can look back to the promises that are made in the Bible and go, “You know what, that really is true–I remember what it felt like to be swept off my feet and loved by God. There hasn’t been a moment where he left me.” The experiences collaborate the writing. They go hand in hand.

      Bible – experiences = a text that, however true, will not cause someone to believe because there is nothing to confirm it.

      Experiences – Bible = fleeting emotion that means nothing and has no grounding in reality or God.

      Bible + Experiences = a relationship where we fully recognize and enjoy God’s love.

      Did that clear things up? : )

  2. While I think I can understand where the author is coming from and I do believe this article makes a valid point about having a relationship with God, I have to respectfully disagree. In the darkest times in my life when I couldn’t feel God’s love at all or see its evidence around me the only thing I could cling to was His Word. All I felt was heavy darkness and God and His love seemd distant and unreal. But then His Word says:

    Galations 2:20 “And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God. who LOVED me and gave himself for me.”
    Zephania 3:17 “The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his LOVE; he will exult over you with singing.”
    1 John 3:1 “See what kind of LOVE the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.”

    These verses and many more like them are what I clung to during those dark days. I did not feel it but I washed myself in the Word over and over. So where the feeling used to be I substiuted faith. I am truly not sure I would have made it through without the knowledge that God did indeed love me which I found in His Word. I needed desperately to know He loved me because without that life is emptiness and not worth the trouble of living. Everything around me and inside me was telling me it wasn’t true. He was far away and He didn’t care. So I even toyed with the idea of taking my own life, that is how big the darkness seemed. But when I turned to His Word it was like a light for me and the assurance of His Love that I found there saved me.

    Well I don’t usally comment this long but I hope it may mean something to someone who reads this. Its not to say I don’t appreciate your post Michael because I do and I think it is great that you are thinking through all these things. That is just my own story and I felt lead somehow to share it.

    • Thank you for sharing, Emily. It is never easy to remember or share dark times that you have gone through, especially when they involved such painful memories. I remember all too well similar times in my own life, where I hit the bottom, and then the bottom fell out from under me and I sank even lower.

      A mis-understand that seems to have happened here is that this has been read to be saying that we need to ignore the Bible for experiences and feelings, which was the last thing I wanted to imply in writing this. The Bible is an amazing gift that God has given us, and it can give us that hope and anchor to cling to that you talked about. My question to you is simply, why were you able to believe that what was said in the Bible was true? Was it simply because it said it was? That may be the case, in which case, I genuinely am happy for you and wish I had that strength of faith in my hard times.

      The reason that I now know that I can believe and trust what is said in the Bible is because I have experienced God and His love and it has confirmed and validated what I read. That is what I was trying to show:

      All the letters and cards in the world mean nothing if you haven’t experienced the love that inspired Him to write those notes.

      Having experienced that love I can then fall back on the promises God has made in the Bible when I might not be ‘feeling’ God’s love in the same way that I did in the good times.

      Does that make sense?

      • Michael, thank you for explaining your position so politely and respectfully; that is not true on all blogs!!! I think I understand your point better now. Thanks for sharing your story as well. Although it can be painful, there is power when we share our stories of difficulty and struggles and maybe it can cause others to hope.

        • It is my pleasure, Emily! We should all be seeking to help each other out, so I see no reason to get defensive or argumentative, you know?

          “Although it can be painful, there is power when we share our stories of difficulty and struggles and maybe it can cause others to hope.” <—This right here. You know, I can debate with someone for hours and we can disagree, but there is something powerful about simply sharing what has happened to you. And that can't be debated–it is your story, and it happened to you. It really is one of the most powerful things I know of.

          Thank you again for sharing your thoughts. God bless, and I'll (hopefully) see you around!

  3. I think Michael makes a valid point in his post, as do the commenters above.

    I actually agree with both sides…. because I don’t see the two overarching points that are being made here as mutually exclusive; rather, they are two sides to the same coin. Two ways of encountering God that are not antagonistic to one another, but instead complete and compliment each other. The Bible can lead you to experience God as you never have before… and in turn, experiencing God’s love can awaken in you a new desire for His Word, a deeper reverance, a more consuming hunger.

    The cool thing is that God provides us with soooo many different ways to get to know Him and encounter His extravagent, unreasonable love for us – why would we choose just one??

    • Hailey, you’ve got it :) The point of this post was to emphasize that balance. I may have written it with more emphasis on experiences, but that was simply because, in my experience, I have not come across that many Christians who had issue with the Bible, but I have come across many who have lived without the experiences of God’s love, and it is a painful and lonely place to be.

      These two things work together–the Bible and experiences. They confirm each other and should inspire us to greater and greater love for God.

      • I sincerely apologize for the double comment, but I noticed something here I wanted to note that I forgot in my other reply.

        Since when did God’s love become synonymous with life going swimmingly? When did we have the gall to assume that God only loves us when he gives us what we want? Do we honestly think that we know what we need better than the One who created us and kind of runs the entire universe? Living without God’s “love”, and by that I presume you mean going through trials/hardships/etc., should be expected, should be normal. If we wait for things to get all nice and peachy before deciding it’s probably worth getting to know the God who’s making all this great stuff happen, oh have we got our priorities screwed over.

        There is no “balance” between emotions and the Bible. There is the Bible. And there is God, who we learn about in the Bible. We may or may not get the tongues of fire over our head or the pounding in our chest, but that is irrelevant. The only “feelings” that matter are the feelings of complete and utter gratitude for a God who has saved us from eternal damnation and is gracious enough to call us His own, regardless of what we walk through in this life.

        • I think everyone has had interesting thoughts…but what I’m seeing here is that you’ve taken out Michael’s word “experience” and substituted “feelings.” I think that’s a huge difference. Experiencing God’s love, in my life at least, has definitely NOT correlated only to the “good” times. Often His love is the most obvious through trials, sadness, and defeat, and I’m fairly certain the Michael didn’t mean that God’s love is synonymous with “life going swimmingly.” The entire point is that God has various means of communicating His love to us. The Bible is one and the most prominent. But I think it’s well to be careful assuming that other people don’t experience God in other ways, including His creation, prayer, ministry, and even emotions. Emotions don’t determine God’s love, but that doesn’t mean it’s not one way we can experience it.
          The Bible is my touchstone, my life support, but it is not the only way I experience the love of God in my life. God has spoken to people throughout history through His Word, His prophets, and even on occasion tongues of fire, through good times, bad times, and dry spells. The point of course, is that He does love us, and wants us to know that.

  4. That’s an interesting point. Definitely something to ponder on.
    I understand where you’re comming from, and to be honest, I agree. But that may be because, I can see that God has shown me so many times in my life that He loves me. I may have read it first in the Bible that God loves all of us, but there are so many ways that He backs-up His own word. Personally, the easiest way for me to understand His love is by His actions (by my experiences of/with Him).

    Keep on blogging, Michael.

    • Thanks man! I definitely can relate. For the longest time I knew of God’s love in my head–I could tell you about it–but I had a hard time believing it because I had not connected with God or experienced Him and His love.

  5. what about the “still, small voice”, the scripture speaks of? what about the words in the old testament that say you will find ME when you seek me with all of your heart?
    I struggle with this my self and have for many years, unlike Michael, though, I haven’t experienced Him.
    I struggle to understand how there can be a relationship that in any way resembles close or personal or intimate when the entire other half has to be taken on faith. I desperately want to EXPERIENCE Love, affirmation and Acceptance but I never find very much. I’ve been through my Bible almost twice now and have yet to find my name or anything else that resembles “personal”. Is it or is it not possible to have a relationship with God that is personal or intimate?

    • Roy, thank you for being so open. Having been where you are, I’m sorry that you are going through that…it hurts. To answer your question, it is possible to have an intimate relationship with God.

      You won’t find your name written in the Bible (unless you happen to be named after someone from the Bible), and the Bible won’t create that relationship, as you’ve noticed. The Bible is a tool that God uses–it is an inerrant book, but it is not God. It can inform us about God and His nature, but reading it isn’t necessarily how you will find God. I know some people who found God and had their intimate relationship with Him initiated through reading the Scriptures, and I also know a lot of people who knew the Bible like the back of their hand but didn’t have that intimate relationship.

      So, all that to say, reading the Bible is good, and it certainly can allow you to get a better head knowledge of God and who He is, but it is one aspect of a relationship with God.

      I don’t really have the answer to the question you are probably asking: “How do I connect with God and experience Him?” So rather than waste your time with trite sayings and cliche advice, I’d point out a few things from the Bible.
      –Moses had his relationship with God get kicked off by talking to a bush.
      –the Ethiopian (I think in acts…) had his relationship with God started by reading the Bible but recognizing he was missing something–the understanding and relationship, and then God sent someone along to explain it. He then had that relationship he was looking for.

      You never know when this sort of thing will happen or what it will look like. I would just encourage you to open your mind up. Try to discover why we do/believe what we do. Is it tradition or is it Biblical? So much of what the American church teaches/believes about God comes from traditions instead of coming from the Bible. As you figure this out, seek God as He really is, not as tradition says He is. Not all tradition is bad, but not all of is is good or accurate either.

      I will be praying for you, which may not mean much to you coming from a random dude on the internet, but I am. God is there, He does care, and that intimate relationship does exist.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I believe that “Jesus Love me this I know” is a very powerful song to teach children from as early as possible. This song will remain with them right through their adult lives assuring them that even if their mother, father, whoever forsakes them or denies them love, Jesus never will. It supports many scriptures in the word of God that speaks directly to Jesus’s love for little children. In Luke 18:16 Jesus said, ……..:Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not…………….. Just to mention only two other verses – Matthew 18:10 and Proverbs 22:6. At our lowest in life we need to know that someone loves us regardless to what mistakes we made or what we are going through.

    • Definitely. It is very important to know that God does love us, unconditionally, and that he won’t leave us!

      Honestly, if I have children, they’ll probably know this song–I was just using “Jesus Loves Me” as an example of a dangerous way of thinking (knowing that God loves us solely from the Bible saying that He does, without any other reason to believe that he does) instead of “tasting and seeing that the Lord is good.”

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