John 15, Matthew 3:16
Dave Simpson reflects on the way Jesus loves us just as the Father loves him.
Someone recently said to me that Christianity is the only faith in the world which contains the concept of unconditional love.
I have to confess I haven't done research to find out if this is true or not but it certainly is true that at the very heart of the Christian faith is the unconditional love that God has for humanity. In many other world religions or faiths people strive to be close to God or to become enlightened or righteous by their own effort. Love and value is very often conditional depending on behaviours or keeping certain practices or rituals.
Unconditional love is not only rare in world religions but quite simply in the world at large. People often derive their value from what they do, how successful they are in terms of money, their job and their life accomplishments. There can so often be an underlying sense that we are loved based on what we bring to the table.
A passage of scripture that has deeply spoken into my life is John chapter 15. In it Jesus is speaking to his disciples about the fact that, in order to live fruitful lives their focus is not to be on their own effort but on their relational connection to Christ.
In the middle of this chapter, in verse 9, Jesus says something that is incredibly rich and profound and a verse which I have spent a long time pondering: "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love." This verse grabbed at my heart and, quite frankly, messed with my head! Don't get me wrong I know Jesus loves me, but this verse pours fresh revelation on quite how much he does.
As I let it sink in I couldn't help but think, 'Ok Jesus, but how exactly does the Father love you?' Whilst I prayed and considered this question I read the early parts of Matthew about the start of Jesus' life and ministry. When I got to chapter 3 and the moment Jesus is baptised at the very beginning of his ministry, I reached a passage which brought me the answer I was looking for.
It reads, "As soon as Jesus was baptised, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.'" I realised that the love that Father God has for Jesus is totally unconditional.
These verses all come at the very start of Christ's ministry, before he had done anything in the way of miracles or teachings. It is at that moment that Jesus had his Father's full love and pleasure. It wasn't based on his success or failure, his ability or performance level. The Father loves him because he is his son and as the verse in John 15 makes it so clear, it is in exactly this way that we are loved by Jesus.
At the time of writing this my wife is pregnant with our first child. We both have such an immense love for them despite having not yet seen them, held them or heard their voice. I think it is the closest I have felt to genuine unconditional love and it is a picture to me of how God loves each of us.
When we first become Christians it is often when we most keenly feel God's unconditional love. However it is interesting in John 15:9 that Jesus calls us to remain in his love. Christ is calling us all to live in this unconditional love everyday. To have a continual awareness of his affection for us. This is a challenge whatever our upbringing and life experiences have been.
Despite growing up in a loving family I know I so easily turn to my own efforts, work and performance to try and prove my worth to God and others and try to gain affection. It is a very human trait and yet one which is tiring and unfulfilling.
It is in those times when I know God's unconditional love for me that I feel most alive, am able to love those around me well and my life bears most fruit. It is in this reality that Jesus wants us all to remain.The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
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