By Sigrid Fowler
All writers in Op Ed are here to inform and acknowledge issues of importance to our communities, however these writings represent the views and opinions of the authors and not necessarily of The Advertiser.
Of all the children’s songs kids learn in Sunday school or summer Bible school, “Jesus Loves me” may be the best known—”Yes, Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so . . .”, anda second verse, not as familiar: “Jesus loves me and he died / Heaven’s gates to open wide, / He will wash away my sin, / Let this little child come in.” The song is amazing as well as appealing. It’s the gospel simply stated, only a few words easily understood. Other gospel truths—that “he shall make his soul an offering for sin” (Isaiah’s Suffering Servant prophesy, Isa 53: 10) and that the offering was accepted by the Father then ratified, as it were, in Jesus’ resurrection—these points aren’t stated. Children will understand such basics lateras they grapple at an older age with the realities of death, the sin that causes it, and the remedy God provided. The focus of the song is Jesus’ love, a truth graspable at any age.
We learn about the love of Jesus through his own familiar knowledge of a loving Father–one who shines the sun on both the evil and the good (Matt 5:45), who loves and cares for his creation (Matt 6: 26-30), feeding and clothing even the flowers and birds though they do nothing to earn it. The word Father (with signal uppercase) occurs more than a hundred times in the gospels. Jesus is talking about the heavenly Father. The prayer he gave his disciples when they asked for teaching on prayer begins, “Our Father, who art in heaven.” Israel knew the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as Father, but the degree of intimacy and revelation of the Father’s love is never more emphatically shown than by Jesus.
In Jesus’ prayer (John 17), he addresses the Father, using this title six times. Here is one thing Jesus prays: “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” (John 17: 22-23). The Father-Son unity is clear both in this prayer and in other parts of the NT—e.g., John 10:30, where Jesus flatly states, “I and the Father are one.”
This unity of Father and Son isn’t just a theological concept, not something contrived in a seminary discussion. Monotheism is a foundational doctrine of Christianity, never mind that it’s a difficult one. It ought to be difficult. We’re talking about who God is! However, to go back to the line from the song, “Yes, Jesus loves me,” we can state as emphatically that the nature of God can be understood by a child because love is the identity of the God we worship. Love, like monotheism, is a foundational teaching of Christianity. This is simple enough for a child. “God is love,” John writes in his first letter ( I John 4: 8). The Father loves, the Son loves, and they with the Holy Spirit are one God—the three Persons, one in all things. Love is who God is—whether we’re thinking of God the Son, God the Father, or God the Holy Spirit. A child can grasp, “God is love.” Remember, Jesus said the kingdom is made of the childlike (Mark 10:14). He called the Twelve, “little children” (John 13: 33).
Another thing we know about the love of Jesus is that itlasts, it doesn’t diminish, it doesn’t wear out. He doesn’t get tired of trying to love us. It’s his nature to love and we are his. Remember, God is love! Psalm 136 repeats “His lovingkindness endures forever” as the second part of each of its twenty-six verses. This is the one God we worship, praised exultantly in the Hebrew Bible as the God whose loveendures. In the account of Jesus’ final supper with his disciples, John writes, “Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (John 13: 1). The unfailing quality of Jesus’ love is no doubt a reason Paul refers to Christas “the Rock” (I Cor 10:4b). In Rom 8:35a, Paul writes: “Who can separate us from the love of Christ?” then goes on to list every possibility he can think of, negating the whole thing.No, we can’t be cut off from Jesus’ love. It lasts. Yes, Jesus loves me, and his lovingkindness endures forever!
This has to be the final word about the love of Jesus—his own explanation: “Greater love has no one than this, that helay down his life for his friends” (John 15: 13).