What does "Jesus loves me" really mean? The word "love" gets tossed about quite a bit in this culture, and it doesn't always get used correctly.
In his book, "The Four Loves," C.S. Lewis discusses four greek words for love: Storge, Phileo, Eros, and Agape. Each are different, of course, and each are very valid. Storge is basically natural affection, phileo is brotherly love, eros is romantic love, and agape is the type of love that we are to have for everyone. Although each type of love is different, they must have some commonality to be called love at all. There may even be more types of love than this, but it also must have the core components of love to be correctly entitled love.
I would say that the core component of all the different types of love is agape love. If there is a type of love which does not include agape, then it is a cheap imitation, and not true love. For instance, if a man rapes a woman because he eros-loves her, then he does not really love her. Obviously, a person who agape-loves someone would not violate that person like that, and therefore that man, who lacks agape-love, also lacks true romantic love.
Now, love is probably one the most complex topics of all time. There is no way to fully describe love with words. I do not claim that I can fully describe love. However, I do think that it ought to be possible to describe some sort of working definition of love. It is possible and reasonable to be able to claim that "this is love" and that "that is not."
As a side note, I would love for you to all first read this blog: (Link) I wrote this blog about love, and it gets more in-depth than I will right now. Right now, I will chose to mention only a minimal set of core requirements for love:
What is love?
To love someone is to delight in them.
"For whom the LORD loves He corrects, Just as a father the son in whom he delights."
To love someone is to want what's best for them.
" Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved."
To love someone is to actively help them get what is best for themselves.
"And one of you says to them, 'Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,' but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?"
To love someone is to show tough love, not just spoiling them.
"He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly."
That's right, when I speak of love, I'm not talking about some sort of wishy-washy liking of someone that prompts one to spoil them. No, I am talking about that intense, fearful, powerful love that God has for us when He insists that we cannot come to come heaven as we are, but must die and be reborn. I am talking of a love that everyone wants, but no one wants to experience. You must even love yourself enough that you don't let yourself slip into sin and accept your own excuses. [Important note: just as a father who disciplines a son should challenge him, and keep him accountable, he is not to be verbally abusive or overly harsh.]
Love fights to defend the loved one from harm:
"Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow."
To love someone is to teach and guide them.
"Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it."
To love someone is to be concerned with their physical well-being.
“Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’"
In this sin-cursed world, love suffers:
"Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, 'See how He loved him!'"
Love does not harm to neighbor:
"Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law."
All of this is pretty obvious and straightforward. Those who love you and gentle in rebuke when they can be. When we love someone a lot, we delight in their presence when we can; when we cannot, we wish that we could. We want what is truly best for those that we deeply care about: we are not apathetic when they get themselves into trouble. We provide help, and not just wishes, when we really love someone. True love is when you defend people against the sin in their lives, rather than just sit idly by. It is a very known principle that tough love is love, while enabling is not. If someone loves you, they will defend against those who try to hurt you. Someone who loves you will, if push comes to shove, give you the coat off their back. When someone claims to love you, and then does you harm, it's obvious that they are not being loving.
Finally, love wants betterment and closeness even when it's obvious that it will never happen - yes, love often is irrational to "want" something it knows it will not ever see. If I saw a robber getting ready to hurt or kill you, I would not want you to hurt or die, even those I might know that I could not stop him.
"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell." - C.S. Lewis
And now at last, we reach the questions that I brought up at the beginning.
Does Jesus love me?
Or, of more importance to this discussion, does Jesus love you? Does Jesus love everyone who sings that song? Does Jesus love everyone? Does the Bible really say so?
- God loves all people
John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
- God doesn't just love... God IS love. God cannot NOT love.
1 John 4:8 "He who does not love does not know God, for God is love."
- To love someone is to want what's best for them.
1 Timothy 2:4 "Who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth."
- Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life...
1 John 2:2 "And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world."
- Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung...
Matthew 23:37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!"
Yes. Jesus loves each of us. The Bible DOES tell us so...
"And anyone who says otherwise is selling something..."
Now, there is this particular theory going about nowadays that Christ did not die for everyone: that not just anyone can be saved, that God offers salvation to save, and not to others, that God created some people as vessel of destruction to condemn them to hell. What determines if God died for you, or made you to burn? Some "unconditional" reason, whatever that means. These people will say that God condemns people to hell justly for sin and for unbelief, while claiming that they were unable to anything but sin and disbelieve.
These people will say that:
- * God condemns people to hell for not achieving the impossible.
- * God could save extra people at no additional cost to Himself, but for no obvious reason, decides not to.
- * God created some people and decreed that they sin, so that He could punish them, and thereby demonstrate His awesome wrath and justice.
- * People, who you love enough to give your life for, are going to be burned alive for eternity, because of nothing they have control or influence over.
- * God does this out of true and sincere love for those people
I understood it all until that end part. See, me personally, I would call burning people alive for not achieving the impossible "NOT love." The reason I would call it not love is because I have carefully defined love from the Scripture, and that does not seem to fit the definition at all. If anything, it seems the opposite of love. Even in human terms, if a parent slaps a kid for not achieving the impossible, we would not call that love. It would be abuse. If a fireman ran into a burning building, because two people were in there, and only rescued one of them when he could have easily saved both, no one would call that love. It would be even worse if the president had decreed that they should be in that building, and then told the fireman not to save both. And yet, we are told that God does this? And that it still counts as love?
Love seeks the betterment of the person being loves, even tough love does. How is condemning people without a chance seeking their betterment? Like I said, from the Scriptures: Jesus loves each of us. Really and truly, not in some mystical "burning people alive is a beautiful example of love, it's just a different kind of love" way.
[Note: I do believe in hell. I also believe that Christ bled and died so that people would not have to go there. To twist His character and say that He was not willing to die for them, or even to offer a bit of grace, but rather decrees that they should burn, according to His good pleasure, is unbiblical nonsense. Love seeks the betterment of the person loves. Christ loves us and sought our betterment.]