If Billboard ranked church songs, “Jesus Loves Me” would probably be #1 on the preschool chart. From the time kids can put two sentences together, they’re singing about Jesus’ love for them — love we learn about in the Bible, love that overcomes our weakness, and love that welcomes the “little ones” who belong to His family.
When the renowned theologian, Karl Barth, was asked to summarize his whole theology in one sentence, he replied: Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Profound truth expressed in simple words.
Unfortunately, we can sometimes get so familiar with just the statement of God’s love that we miss the bigger picture of how this love is expressed.
God has demonstrated His love in sending His Son to die for us. But it’s important to ask an additional question: Why did He send His Son to die?
The Scriptures are clear that God wanted to bring us back to Himself, to reconcile us. Or to put it more simply: God wanted to be with us. He washed away our sin so He could welcome us into His presence.
God expresses love through His sacrificial actions in order to be with His people. Too many Christians get the first part of that truth (“God loves us”) and even the second part (“through His sacrificial actions”), but then miss the purpose (“in order to be with His people”). The result is that we believe God loves us, but we don’t think He likes us all that much.
Just like you probably have relatives who you “love” but don’t necessarily like being around, you might think that God loves you like a distant father, someone who tolerates your imperfections and chastises you for your mistakes. He shows you grace in letting you live in his house, but he doesn’t care to spend much time with you. Many of us have adopted this distorted picture of a God who loves us in the abstract, but who isn’t very fond of us personally.
Contrast the distorted image of distant father with the God of the Bible, who from the beginning demonstrates a powerful desire to be with His people:
- In the Garden of Eden, God walked with His people in the cool of the day (Gen. 3:8).
- After He saved the children of Israel from captivity in Egypt, God manifested His presence by leading them with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (Ex. 13:21).
- God commanded Moses to construct a tabernacle, a place where He could pour out His presence in the midst of His people (Ex. 25:8-9).
- The Israelites often referred to God by His Name – Yahweh Shammah, which means “The Lord Is There” (Ezek. 48:35).
- Through the prophet Jeremiah, God said, “Am I a God at hand, declares the Lord, and not a God far away?” (Jer. 23:23).
- When the Messiah was promised, the angel said His name should be called “Immanuel,” which means God with us (Matt. 1:23).
- Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to dwell in us, so that God would be as real and present with us as Jesus was with His disciples (John 14:16-18).