“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments” (1 John 5:2).
At a missions function recently I met a young man for the first time. He was probably in his early twenties, much younger than my own children. His first question to me was, “Do you love Jesus?” I was a little surprised that someone I was speaking to for the first time and who knew I was about to embark on my eighth trip to the prisons in South Africa to teach the Bible would ask this question. It was his first communication with me after saying, “Hello.”
Not knowing the reason for the question I answered with a simple and cautious, “Yes.” However that led to another question that I had never been asked before, “Why do you love Jesus?”
God has a way of using His people to search out our hearts with regard to our relationship with Him. At first I was without words. Then the biblical theological but non-relational answer came to mind. I could not speak it. It seemed empty. For many years I would have answered that question with something like this, “I love Jesus because He first loved me and showed it by taking my sin to the cross.” As true as that is biblically it just seemed inadequate at the time. There has been much water under the bridge since I began my walk and life with Jesus Christ.
My wife and I have been married forty two years. I loved her before we married and I love her now but there is an enormous difference in the kind of love I have for her now. I could have listed a number of reasons why I loved her then: her fantastic looks, her great cooking, the attention she gave to me, to name a few; but these do not rate a mention now even though they are even more true today. Too much time and experience have passed. Her love for me has been severely tested and found to be immeasurably strong yet even that is only a part of the answer as to why I love her now. My wife has been my constant companion for forty two of the forty five years I have known her. We have grown together as one and, on the occasions we have been apart, I feel a loss when she is not with me.
Jesus’ love for me was severely tested on Calvary and He loves me with a love that can only be measured in terms of the Divine Nature itself. Yet that is not the reason I love Him now. It has gone beyond that. Being in companionship with Jesus for more than thirty years has meant we have grown together and life apart from Him would indeed be to suffer a great loss.
Even though I was initially without words I am now grateful for that young man’s question. Perhaps like Jesus’ probing of Peter after His resurrection it gave me insight into my own heart that I had not known before. I now know that I really do love Jesus just for Himself. It isn’t that I have forgotten what He has done for me and will do for me but I now know my relationship with Him is different than it was at the beginning and that I love Him for who He is and not only what He has done for me.