He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not
by Greg Albrecht
We hear the word "love" a lot at this time of the year—we see hearts liberally sprinkled everywhere as Valentine's Day is promoted and observed. Let's spend some time thinking about God's love.
When we were a lot younger than we are now, back in the olden days, when we had a crush on someone, and we weren't really sure whether they liked us or not, we would find a flower and begin to pull its petals, playing the "he loves me, he loves me not" game. The last petal left on the flower answered the question, didn't it?
Many of us, without critically analyzing it, actually reduce ourselves to playing a similar game with God. In this most important relationship we can ever have, we often convince ourselves that we're not sure how God really feels about us, so we play a guessing game.
How sure are you about your relationship with God? Do you really know how God feels about you?
Consider how the Apostle John summarizes his first letter, reiterating the theme he wanted his readers to remember: "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life" (1 John 5:13).
"Know" is a word that John uses in this letter 26 times. One of the words he uses in other places is the Greek word that carries the meaning that knowledge is gained by having more exposure to it. As Peter says in his second letter, we "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior" (2 Peter 3:18)
But the Greek word that John uses when he tells us that we KNOW we HAVE eternal life is a word that means the fullness of knowledge. This is a word that conveys absolute, no-doubt-about-it knowledge.
When John tells us that we KNOW we have eternal life he doesn't say that the gift of eternal life is conditional, and that we have to keep God happy, otherwise he will take away the eternal relationship we enjoy with him. That would be a contradiction anyway, wouldn't it? If our relationship with God is eternal,
it's eternal—it's based on his unconditional love—otherwise our relationship with him is conditional, and it would be an until-we-goof-up relationship.
God's love—the heart and core of the relationship we have with him—is not a conditional gift. That's why it's silly to play the "He loves me, he loves me not" game with God. Because God lives in us, and by his grace we live in him (1 John 4:12-13, Galatians 2:19-20) we don't have to worry about losing something God gives to us, without condition.
I don't have to worry, that when I die (let's presume I arrive at those metaphorical golden gates, and Peter is the gatekeeper) that Peter will check heaven's computer database and say to me, "I'm sorry Greg, it seems like you did have a reservation at one time, but our records show that you got lazy and your relationship with God got cancelled."
When Christ lives in us and we live in him we spiritually rest—we experience the very peace of God. By God's grace we are confident, not in our ability to please God, but in the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf, who ensured that humans can be (if they surrender the hold that religion has over them and choose to be free in Christ) free of the notion that we never really know how God feels about us. When we fully accept God's grace, and surrender all of our religious notions to God, then we are forever free from playing the "He loves me, he loves me not" game.
You still might not be fully convinced. You might say, "Well, show me some biblical examples of the kind of people God really loves."
Fine, let's start with a murderer and an adulterer who, by God's grace, became the greatest king of Israel. After God transformed David from the inside out God said of him, "there's a man after my own heart."
What about the apostle who proclaimed God's grace to the world who, when he was one of the closest of all of Jesus' disciples, disowned and abandoned Jesus?
When Jesus was being tortured and beaten, the night before his crucifixion, Peter was asked if he was one of his followers—Peter cursed and swore that he had never known Jesus.
What about the apostle of God's grace, a man named Saul—who in his life as the super-religious Saul persecuted and tortured Christians? What about Saul, who was a legalist of all legalists? God transformed the Saul of religion into the Paul of his grace.
If God can love David, Peter and Paul—he can love you and me.
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