Jesus loves me. This, I know.
It's one of our major selling points as Christians - God loves you. Jesus loves you. If you're one of the millions of people looking for love right now in this world, look no further. Because God is love, and He loves you so, so very much.
The Bible, it's the story of God's love. It's the stories of God's love. It's the proof irrefutable that God loves you, even if you're a sinner. Even if you're a saint. Even if you're a broken-down, worn-out, lying, cheating, adultering, prostituting, failing mess of a man or woman. Even if you're a blind, deaf, lame, mute, crippled, bleeding, disreputable individual. Even if you think you've got it all together. Even if you know you don't. The Bible is God's testimony of His love for you.
And all that is true. It's true.
And it's dangerous.
It's dangerous for a lot of reasons. It's dangerous because it tends toward a perversion of worship. If, in this religious ideation we have, God is the one who does all the loving, then isn't it He who worships us? A lot of Christians today think this way. A lot of Christians today think they can do no wrong in God's eyes, that no matter what scheme they come up with or what evil they take part in, God is always going to love them just the same. He's never going to be angry with them. He's never going to be disappointed. He's never going to hold them accountable for anything because they, as the work of His hands, are the object of His worship and not the other way around. They have become God's god. He adores them and sings praise over them.
Because He loves us so.
It's dangerous because it makes God not a formational or foundational presence in our lives, but just another circumstantial one. He's just someone else who loves us. Someone else who can't get enough of the awesome that we are. Our lives are full of people that we keep around for no other reason than that they feed our ego. They love everything we do. They tell us how good, how smart, how beautiful, how capable, how amazing we are. And God becomes to us just another one of these voices. He tells us all these same things about ourselves, but if His primary role in our lives is as just someone else who loves us, His voice is not fundamentally different to our hearts than is Bill's or Susie's voice next door. In fact, we may even reach a point, and fairly quickly, where we don't even need God for this because Bill's and Susie's voices are more real to us than His whisper. I can hear Bill when he says I'm amazing; I can hear Susie praise my awesomeness. To hear God, I have to, you know, pray and stuff. And create space in my life for Him to answer. And figure out if that's His voice I'm hearing or just the wind. ...It's far easier to be loved by Bill and Susie than it is to be loved by God. And if I can get from the world what I can get from God, why do I need God?
There are plenty of people in this world that love me.
It's dangerous because it encourages a shallow relationship with God. If the thing that is most true about God is that He loves you, then really, that's all you ever need to know about Him. You keep coming back to Him with one question, and one question only: Do you love me? If the answer is yes, then God is still God and you are still you and all is right with the world. But in this simple question, Do you love me?, lies the neglect of the bigger question: How much do you love me? The Cross of Jesus loses its power if the question is love or no love, deal or no deal. The Cross becomes a token of affection just the same as a bouquet of flowers, a fast food gift card, a beautiful ring, or the latest gadget. Oh, that's nice. Jesus gave me a Cross. How neat.
Not only does the Cross lose its power, but God loses His face. It used to be that men longed to see the face of God. Abraham longed for it. Moses longed for it. David longed for it. Elijah longed for it. Men ached to see the face of their God, to know the contours of the lines around His eyes, to see the depth of the universe reflected in them. Today, not so much. Today, who cares? The face of God? Nah. We'll settle for the heart of Him. As long as that heart is, you know, totally centered on loving us. That's the single most important thing about God's heart - whether or not, this morning, it loves us. That's all we care about. Do you love me today, God? Okay, great.
If someone's willing to love us, broken and battered as we are, most of us don't bother to spend much time asking questions. We don't ask whether that person is good for us or bad for us. We don't ask what they contribute to our lives. Their contribution is fairly obvious, isn't it? They love us. For that alone, they are worth keeping around. And if the day comes when we tire of their love or we just don't feel it any more, we cut them loose. We move on. Because we are so love-starved in our world, because our egos are so fragile, we just don't care about much of anything else. We just want to be loved.
And Jesus loves us. This, we know.
But if, for whatever reason, there comes a day that He doesn't, we move on. If today it doesn't feel like He loves me, then today, I have no need of God. I have other people to love me. And if, for whatever reason, those other people stop loving me, I'll come back to God because He has to love me. Or something. And that's all we ever want from Him, isn't it? Just to be loved?