WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO LOVE JESUS? By Sharon Jemeli Kili
To my four closest, Immaculate, Joanna, Lydiah and Beckie, For your friendship, am indebted.
AUTHOR’S NOTE I didn’t understand the deeper meaning of this question until a friend posed it to me. Do we really know why we ought to love Jesus? Do we really profess to what we say when we claim to love Him? And are we willing to actually love Him? Inspired by the words of the song by Mary Brown, ‘I’ll go where You want me to go,’ I have undertaken the challenge to attempt to study this seven-word question and by God’s strength be able to unearth the truth about this love. This is as much for me as it is to anyone who will read this article. May God grant me His grace, Amen. CHAPTER 1: LOVE IS THE THEME Many a time, a preacher may be compelled to ask his congregation to raise their hand if any of them do love Jesus. Obviously, all people raise their hands. But never does this next question, ‘how do you know you love Jesus?’ get asked anywhere. And if it does get asked, most people would probably say, ‘because I pray to Him’, others would say, ‘because I always try to do the right thing’, and so forth. But what does the Word of God say about this love? Love is the theme of the entire Bible. We see God’s love for mankind in every chapter and verse. Because of love, God spoke the world into existence. This same love allowed Him to create man in His own image and likeness and to breathe life into him (Genesis 1-2). His love for Adam and Eve even when they had sinned did not change; He was still with them, even when they had left Him. This love allowed man’s freedom to make decisions, it allowed the serpent to choose evil and yet still, God was willing to take him back, if he ever so wished. This perfect love is what God felt for mankind which led to a Saviour being sent to set us free from the bondage of sin. (Matthew 1:21) This perfect love is Jesus. We are all familiar with John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him, shall not perish but have everlasting life.” Someone challenged me to actually evaluate the depth of these words, and I have truly found deep meaning in these twenty five words. The words are precise and heavy with promise. It is because God loved the world that He gave
His only Son, that whosoever believes in Him, should not perish but have everlasting life. These are five points every person who comes to know God and have a relationship with Jesus, should hold on to. I cannot go into detail about how God’s love manifested itself in every situation in the Bible, but I will focus on three principles; love for God, love for self and love for others. Three interrelated principles that function one in another. If one loves God, he will love self and others. If one loves self, he will love God and others. If one loves others, he loves God and self. Now, you may be thinking how all this will answer my question. But, am getting there, step by step. CHAPTER 2: LOVE FOR GOD ‘Do I really love God?’ and ‘Why should I love God?’ must be the questions on your mind at this moment. Well, let’s find out, shall we. Firstly, before I talk about you, let me talk about Jesus. Jesus is our best example of love. He loved(s) God, so that automatically compelled(s) Him to love mankind, because well, God and He are One (John 5:19, 10:30). But, apart from that, He had the love of the Father in Him, and out of His own will, readily allowed Himself to be our sacrificial Lamb. So, if He loved God so much that he lay down his life for others, can we do the same? Food for thought. In man’s world, loving God does not seem easy. We have to love Him even when things go wrong for us. We have to praise Him and acknowledge that He is all-knowing. Well, let me introduce you to Christ again. A ‘man’ who loved God even unto death and even though He told God to take away the cup of suffering, He knew that it had to be done. For those moments on the cross, the presence of God ‘left’ Him and He felt alone. God is holy and could not be associated with sin, so He watched as His Son died. But, we profess of this act over 2000 years later, as the most selfless act of a ‘man’. God had a perfect plan for humanity, and He had to make a huge decision, but I don’t believe He deliberated about it. Am sure His angels tried to convince Him otherwise but, it was done. We sometimes forget that God is not man, and never will be. We are told in Isaiah 55:8 that His thoughts are not our thoughts, nor His ways, our ways. So, can we have such love for our Creator, that we be willing to let Him take control of our lives? Because, that is exactly it. Jesus said, ’yet not My will, but Yours be done’ Luke 22:42. Simple and clear. If you surrender to God and let Him have control in your life, then you love Him. And not only that, we are told in 1st John 5: 3, ‘this is love for God: to obey His commands’. Is John here referring to specific commands or the Ten Commandments? In 1st John 3: 23, John tells us that God’s command to us is to believe in Christ and to love one another. Now how can we relate this with the Ten Commandments? Jesus summarized these Commandments perfectly in Matt 22:37, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’…’Love your neighbor as yourself.’ If you love God, you will obey His commandments. Likewise, if you love God, you will love your neighbor. Now isn’t that easy? But wait, does it mean we need only to love God because we are told to? No, in 1st John 4:19, he tells us that we love because He first loved us.’ And that, I think, is the best thing we can do for God, love Him.
CHAPTER 3: LOVE FOR SELF Now, here is the tricky part. Am not talking about being self-centered or anything like that. Let’s go back to that very commandment Jesus gave to us, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’. This same commandment was voiced by God years before Jesus said them in Leviticus 19:18. So, we can see how so important it is to love self because it determines how we love others. We cannot love others if we don’t love self, period. God did not intend that we have enemies, rather to foster peace among one another and to love one another. And now, another rather interesting concept, in 1st Corinthians 6:19 & 20, we are told, ‘Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own: you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your body.’ What does this mean? Well, the way I see it, we are God’s possessions and He has commanded us to take care of our bodies because the Spirit lives in us. Honouring God with our body rightly means that we should love our bodies which is a fundamental part of who we are, and well, it’s not our own. Doesn’t this then mean that we should love ourselves because we are God’s property? I don’t know about you, but Iove for self, biblical or not, is what each of us owes to ourselves. Don’t you think? CHAPTER 4: LOVE FOR OTHERS Now, we know the drift, right? We go back to the 2nd greatest commandment, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Well, Jesus was particular about this because, the love of another is greater than anything else. In 1st John 4:7, John tells us, ‘Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.’ Well, God’s love is beyond doubt the greatest in heaven and earth but the selfless act of love of a human being towards another is greatest within our realms. It is not possible to love others if you don’t love self. In fact, in 1st John 3:11 & 16, we are told that from the very beginning, we were told to love one another. In verse 16, Jesus laid down His life for us, and that is the greatest love ever displayed on earth and in the heavens. But, the same verse adds that we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. Now, I know you may be thinking, does this mean to die for someone else? No, this may just mean that one should be ready to give up material possessions or any other need a brother may have selflessly. 1st John 4:20 brings this point home, It says, ‘If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. Therefore, to love God, you need to love others. And to love others, you need to love self. So, in conclusion, Romans 13:9,10 says, "The commandments, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not covet,’ and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law." Need I say more.
Well, now can you see why these three principles are interrelated? Love for self, means love for others, and therefore, love for God. However you want to see it, it all starts and ends with God. God is Love, and that’s final. CHAPTER 5: KNOWING, LOVING AND OBEYING GOD This season, I have enjoyed studying the book of 1st John. If possible, I would quote all verses as my references but I will only point out to those in relation to my topic of discussion, ‘Knowing, Loving and Obeying God.’ So, what does it really mean to know God, and how does it relate to loving and obeying Him? 1st John 2:3-6 clearly describes to us how these three words interrelate. Verse three says ‘we know that we have come to know Him if we obey His commands. So, concept number 1, we know God if we obey His commands. Then, verse four warns us that, ‘the man who says, “I know Him,” but does not do what He commands is a liar and the truth is not in him.’ Concept number 2, we cannot claim to know God if we don’t obey His commands. Finally, verse five and six adds that, ‘but if anyone obeys His Word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in Him: whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did.’ Now, isn’t that straightforward? Concept number 3, if we obey God, His love is made complete in us. This is what we saw with our “forefathers”. Moses and Abraham obeyed God no matter the situation. They obeyed Him hence they knew Him, and therefore God’s love was made complete in them. Now isn’t that something… But there’s more… in chapter 3 verse 6, John tells us that no one who lives in Him keeps on sinning and that no one who continues to sin has either seen Him or known Him. Now, the bible says it as it is, no sugar-coating…after we were saved, we became children of God but anyone who continues to sin is a child of the devil! Yeah, I know…bitter truth. But, we can change all that. So, if we choose to obey God and love Him, then we surely know Him and are His children once again. Makes me want to add a smiley face right there! CHAPTER 6: DO NOT LOVE THE WORLD Well, this is a sad topic for me, but, it is inevitable. John in 1st John 2:15, 16 lays it to us bare and hard, ‘do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in Him. For everything in the world- the cravings of sinful man, the lust of His eyes and the boasting of what he has and does- comes not from the Father but from the world. Each one of us has fallen prey to any of these three ills. And it is sad because, these have separated us from the love of God. Reminds me of Adam and Eve; they lusted for that which God had forbidden and look where it landed them! They were cast from the presence of God, no longer enjoying the fellowship they once had. This is exactly our situation, but, there is hope. God, full of mercy and grace for us, gave us Jesus. A lamb without blemish or defect, whose blood was shed for the salvation of men. So, we have hope. So let us rid ourselves of all manner of ills and crave for that which is good. Because, in 1st Peter 8, 10, 11, Peter encourages us that if we possess the qualities of faith, goodness, kindness, love and so on, they will keep us from being ineffective and unproductive in our knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ and we will never
fall. We will also receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ! Now that’s a promise! CHAPTER 7: PERFECT LOVE Now, in this final chapter, I will combine all these things in order to answer my question, ‘what does it mean to love Jesus.’ We have come a long way in explaining the interrelation of loving ourselves, others and God. We have learnt why it is important to obey and love God. And, finally, we talked about why we should not love the world. So we see, love is the theme and Jesus is in the midst of it all. Because, it is because of Jesus, that God made this world, made us and fashioned a means of saving us too. Proof? Well, it’s simply stated in John 1:1-3, ‘in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made that has been made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.’ And from verses 10-13, John tells us that Jesus was in the world, and only those who believed Him, did He give the right to become children of God- children not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. This is what perfect love is all about. And that is why we should love Jesus. Not because He is the Son of God, but because He, out of His own willingness, died for us on the cross, saving us and assuring us of eternal life. This is all we hope for, eternal life with Jesus. And so, we have faith and hope that when Jesus comes again, He will take us home.
CONCLUSION ‘Now, the conclusion of the matter is: fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.’ And King Solomon was right, so let’s live with this in mind always.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Lord, I pray that the words of this script may be used for the knowledge of You and for the work of saving souls for You. Amen.
Special thanks to: My Father, obviously, He knew who I was before I came to be. My family, because you love me any way. My friends, because I can always count on you.