‘Let’s Just Love Jesus’

We need a biblical-specific love for Jesus:

Hmm, a nice sentiment that. What Christian would quibble over this? Isn’t loving Jesus the main game? Isn’t that all we need as believers? Well, sorta! Of course we are to love Jesus. But that is not the end of the matter. Both of these key terms – ‘Jesus’ and ‘love’ – must be given some actual specific content, or they will mean absolutely nothing – and may even lead us astray.

What exactly do we mean by ‘love’? And who exactly is this ‘Jesus’ that we are to love? These are very important questions indeed. The truth is, anyone can say they ‘love Jesus’. But not everyone actually does love – in the biblical sense of the word – Jesus, at least as he is defined and understood by Scripture.

So we must be much more specific and definite in what this is all about. For many people love can just be lust, or sentimentalism, or accepting anything and everything, and so on. And there are countless versions of Jesus – but only the biblical Jesus is the true Jesus.

As to loving Jesus, he made it quite clear that to love him means to obey him and to keep his commandments. It is not some emotional experience or some content-less feeling. It is a very particular sort of love: a love that says no to self and that says yes to God. See more on this vital truth here: http://billmuehlenberg.com/2011/06/18/loving-god-and-keeping-the-commandments/

And all this talk about loving Jesus is determined by what the Bible teaches. Without Scripture we would not know what real love is, and we would not know who the real Jesus is. So we must be much more precise – and biblical – if we want to speak about loving Jesus.

A recent social media exchange helps to bring all this into focus. I trust my friend will not mind if I share this for the edification of my readers (he did kindly like my reply – bless you sir!). I had put up a post on one current topic of interest. It had to do with a former Qantas pilot who has been at the forefront of resisting medical mandates and statist overreach as he stands for freedom. I had said this:

Some Christians have asked about the champion freedom fighter Graham Hood concerning his being a Seventh-day Adventist. Is it a cult? Should we work with him? I would say two things about this:
1. The noted cult expert Walter Martin was somewhat ambivalent here. He said this in The Kingdom of the Cults: “It is my conviction that one cannot be a true Jehovah’s Witness, Mormon, Christian Scientist, etc., and be a Christian in the Biblical sense of the term; but it is perfectly possible to be a Seventh-day Adventist and be a true follower of Jesus Christ despite heterodox concepts which will be discussed.” See my article on Ben Carson (also SDA and also someone we support) in the link below.
2. This is once again about co-belligerency. We support Carson and Hood at least in terms of the culture wars, just as we supported Israel Folau, even though he is anti-Trinitarian. Theological orthodoxy is of course important, but there is a place for working with others in specific causes, such as in the pro-life, pro-family and pro-freedom wars (see the link below).

The two links I offered were these:

On the SDA: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2014/02/26/ben-carson-potus-and-the-sda/

On co-belligerency: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2010/09/02/on-co-belligerency/

One fellow said this in response to my post:

My brain hurts

Ps: if people ask me what religion i am or what denomination do you belong to? tongue in cheek I answer

Whatever one Jesus is

I’m not smart enough or overly interested in all the branches of religion

If you love him that’s enough for me

I said this to him:

I hear you, but yes and no is how I would reply. Yes, we are to love Jesus, but that is far too wishy-washy. Which Jesus? The socialist Jesus? The New Age Jesus? The Woke Jesus? The Jesus of the cults who is just a mere man and not God? We all need some clear Christian doctrine on these matters, otherwise there is no such thing as Christianity, just feel-good vagueness. So if you don’t mind, you might want to have a read of this piece for more detail on why proper belief is just as vital in biblical Christianity as is proper behaviour: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2011/01/31/creedless-christianity/

That article does cover this matter pretty thoroughly, but it is worth spending a bit more time on this. And as always, I am not picking on any one individual here – I am using this as a teaching moment given that so many people would be in this same camp of questioning the value of doctrine, creeds, denominations, and so on.

As I said, loving Jesus is of course paramount. Jesus said that the two great commandments are to love God and to love our neighbour. But if that was all there was to it, having 66 books of the Bible with over 800,000 words would seem like a bit of overkill on God’s part!

Even those two great commandments need to be filled with biblical content, otherwise they become vacuous, empty and meaningless commands. Let me speak first a bit more about love. Biblical love is about willing the highest good for the other person. Thus to love your neighbour is not open-ended, but rather precise.

Accepting everyone and everything, no questions asked, is not biblical love. Not to warn a drug addict that his behaviour is dangerous and may well send him to an early grave is not loving. Refusing to warn a sinner that unless he repents he is headed to a lost eternity is not loving.

Refusing to warn a homosexual that this is a sinful lifestyle that must be turned from is not loving. Refusing to warn when the judgment of God is coming is not loving. So loving others is not some free for all where anything goes. Loving others means pointing them to, and seeking to keep them in line with, the One True God.

And as mentioned, loving God has actual specific content as well. It means, to a very large degree, keeping his commandments. Jesus said this over and over again. The article I link to above has plenty of these scriptures, but I offer just a few of them here:

John 14:21 Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.
John 14:23 Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”
John 15:14 You are my friends if you do what I command.

As to Jesus, there are plenty of false ones out there. Jesus himself warned about this:

Matthew 24:4-5 Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ, and will deceive many.”

Mark 13:21-23 At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect—if that were possible. So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time.

Luke 21:8 He replied: “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them.”

So to say we should ‘just love Jesus’ is clearly not sufficient. Which Jesus? Only the real, biblical Jesus should be loved, obeyed and worshipped. But with so many fakes out there, we need some discernment. We need to be able to see the real Jesus from all the counterfeits. Until we do that, we cannot really love Jesus. We may instead end up ‘loving’ some heretical or cultic cheap imitation.

By all means, make ‘loving Jesus’ one of your top priorities. But make sure your love is biblical love, and make sure your Jesus is the biblical Jesus.

[1374 words]

4 Replies to “‘Let’s Just Love Jesus’”

  1. Indeed. Jesus is The Word made flesh and most people understand that the term “Logos”, while singular, is obviously not saying Jesus is just one word. “Logos” is where we get the term “logic” from and I understand the early Christians understood that this meant that Jesus is God’s reasoning and wisdom made flesh. The way it was explained to me was, just like we might reason in our head how to approach a problem, so does God. This is how God begat wisdom (Prov 8.)

    So yes, if you love Jesus, you love what God has said. This means you actually understand and delight in obedience.

  2. Very subtle Bill, I read the the word ‘just’ and the hackles on the back of my neck started rising!
    However I am surprised you did not bring out the fact that there are several Greek words for ‘love’ and, of course, Koine Greek was the language of the time in Jesus’ day. In fact where I live is a Greek-speaking country and they have told me how amused they are that we English-speakers ‘love chocolate’, and ‘love my dog’, and ‘love that supermarket/film/person, etc, etc’.
    The modern Greek words I know for love which are mirrored in the New Testament are:
    Eros – sexual ‘love’
    Storge – parental love, mostly
    Philia – sibling love
    Agape – unconditional love.
    There are other words too, for example if I love a supermarket it would be “m’aresi”.
    This is the difficulty I think for many people in that the English language is not half as comprehensive as we like to think it is.

  3. Hi Bill
    Could you point me to a message that you might have written on what gentleness means as the fruit of the Spirit is gentleness? I was wondering about that particular attribute. Thanks

  4. Thanks Anne. Well first, I can point you to a person: Jesus. He of course was gentle, but that did not preclude him rebuking others when needed or flipping over tables. But I have written on the gentle heart of Christ and how he treats us. And I often refer to a great book, Gentle and Lonely by Ortlund. See here for example: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2020/08/15/the-tender-heart-of-god/

    And there is a piece I did on the classic Sibbes work on this: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2015/03/11/a-bruised-reed/

    Not sure if I have penned pieces on gentleness as one of the fruit of the Spirit so far. But I am sure many others have.

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