Thursday, February 15, 2018

He Loves Me, He Likes Me Too

“I may not always like you, but I will always love you.”  It was early in our relationship.  His intentions were good (though I still like to joke with him about it), and I’m thankful to be married to someone that is committed to me – even on my worst days.  Let’s be honest, when you start dating your future spouse at 16, he gets to see the parts of you that others who enter your path later in life don’t have to suffer through.  He was there as I finished high school, labored through college, and tried to sort out life.  I am so grateful to be married to someone who sees love as a long term commitment, not just a feeling that comes and goes.

We talk about this kind of love all the time in our churches – a love that’s committed, that loves you at your worst, that expects nothing in return.  Agape.  We hear it so much that it can be easy to fall into the trap of only viewing love as some type of contract, void of any feelings.  Seems more like a prearranged marriage, doesn’t it?  “I’m committed to you, but I may not actually like you.”

The problem is that we can view God’s love for us in the same way.  Commitment void of any feelings.  Loving without liking.

I think back to singing “Jesus Loves Me” as a kid.  There’s something about the rarely sung second verse that bothers me.

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.

At this point in my life, I can willingly admit that I’m a mess - and I will never get it all together this side of heaven.  None of us will.  So then, is Jesus walking around in a state of perpetual sadness, always disappointed with us?  Commitment without feeling, loving without liking?

No, no, no!  Let me say it again.  NO!!!

Yet, so many of us feel & live this way.

Think about Peter’s denial of Christ…

Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest's house, and Peter was following at a distance.  And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them.  Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.”  But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.”  And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.”  But Peter said, “Man, I am not.”  And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.”  But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.”  And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed.   And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.”  And he went out and wept bitterly.  (Luke 22:54-62)

What expression do you see on Jesus’ face when he turned to look at Peter?  For many years, I saw that “Jesus Loves Me” sadness on his face.  “Peter, I still love you, but I don’t really like you right now.  I'm sad.  You’ve disappointed Me.  How could you mess up again? I even warned you this was coming!”

Then, one day I realized this couldn’t be true.  No, the passage doesn’t give us any hints about the expression on Christ’s face.  Yet, the rest of Scripture does reveal His heart for us.

I believe the look on His face was grace.  Because that’s what God continually lavishes on all of us – grace after grace.  Unmerited favor.  “Peter, I still love you.  I still like you too.”  His Word tells us, ”There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).  So, how could His face have reflected anything but grace in that moment when He was about to pay love’s highest price?

Isaiah 62:4 says, “You shall be called My Delight Is in Her… for the Lord delights in you.”  I am in awe of the idea that God can find delight in His children.  (See 2 Samuel 22:20; Psalm 18:19, 41:11.)  What image does the word “delight” bring to your mind?  It’s certainly not detached and emotionless.  I envision great pleasure and joy.

In Psalm 103, David shares…

The Lord is merciful and gracious,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,

    nor will he keep his anger forever.
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
    nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
13 As a father shows compassion to his children,
    so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
14 For he knows our frame;
    he remembers that we are dust.

I especially like verse 14.  God knows what I’m made of.  He knows I’m not perfect.  He knows every sin I ever have and ever will commit.  Every time I will fail Him.  He knows me better that my high school sweetheart – who’s still here over 25 years later.  He knows me better than I even know myself!  And yet He chooses to love me.

His love is committed and faithful to His children – no matter what.  Yet it’s also full of delight.  A love that doesn’t just put up with me, but still likes me – even at my worst.  A love that knows every detail of my life, yet still extends grace and mercy.  A love so deep that it died in my place; so that when He turns to look at me, all that He sees is Christ’s blood covering all of my failures.

Though our earthly loves may find it difficult to like us some days, our heavenly Father never will.

"And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God."  Ephesians 3:18

Note:  There has been some debate over the use of the word "reckless" to describe God's love for us.  If you take it to mean rash or without forethought, then no, it is not a good word choice.  However, the writer explains it this way, "He is utterly unconcerned with the consequences of His actions with regards to His own safety, comfort, and well-being...His love doesn’t consider Himself first. His love isn’t selfish or self-serving. He doesn’t wonder what He’ll gain or lose by putting Himself out there...His love leaves the ninety-nine to find the one every time. To many practical adults, that’s a foolish concept."  I hope you will research and decide for yourself.  Personally, I love that it has spurred such a discussion about God's love.

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