John 16:27 No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. (NIV)
We live in a world where many people believe that God loves everyone, therefore, we can do whatever we want and God won’t mind. Sadly, it’s the biggest misconception that good folk have, and may even be a questionable idea which promotes a teaching of false assurance. It’s very easy to embrace this impression because none of us are comfortable with the notion that some folks are not loved by God. Even as a pastor, I struggle with this one but when I see the consequences of a carefree, casual approach to faith – moral anarchy, self-indulgence, and narcissism - I question the veracity of such a popular misconstrued philosophy.
As usual, when I get perplexed about this, I look to the Gospels and try to focus on what Christ actually taught, as opposed to common misunderstandings of what He said and did. In today’s passage (John 16:16-33), I am intrigued by Christ’s remark that God solely loves the disciples simply because they love and believe in Jesus. As a parent, I can understand this – whenever I see my daughters in the company of good and reliable friends, I love those friends dearly for loving my daughters. I think God, as Christ’s Father, felt the same way about the disciples who truly loved, believed, and supported Jesus. This, in turn, causes me to ponder on the whole idea: does God truly love us when we faithfully love and believe His Son?
If this is the case – and remember, it comes from Christ’s lips – then doesn’t the Church do a disservice to Jesus, as well as to the world, when we dilute the faith by presenting it as a vehicle for being nice to others rather than being true to God? As I see congregations dwindling in mainline Christianity, it makes me wonder if our one-god-fits-all message has lulled us into a false sense of security and sadly doomed many people, including our own loved ones, into being separated from God forever for not truly loving and believing in His Son.
Point to ponder
Who do I truly believe that Jesus is? Is this what God expects me to believe?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, Your words often challenge us and Your ways confront our choices. Open up our hearts and minds to Your Gospel. Help us to read Your life story and teachings carefully, so that we may live our lives by loving You faithfully. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.
John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. You can read the church website at www.erinpresbyterian.org. If you would like to communicate with John, please send him an email to Traqair@aol.com.
Today’s image is one of John’s psalm drawings based on Psalm 149. If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Psalm149.