- Rick LoPresti
Does He love me?
“The Fiddler on the Roof” is a play and movie based on a Jewish story by Shalom Aleichem. It is a story about Jewish life in Tsarist Russia before the Bolshevic (Communist) Revolution. Its theme is how the changing times impacted Jewish religious tradition and lifestyle. The fiddler himself represents trying to balance maintaining valued traditions and values with adapting to current life situations. One tradition challenged in the story is arranged marriages. Tevye arranges a marriage for his oldest daughter, but she loves someone else. His younger daughter falls in love with a Russian Gentile. During these challenges to tradition, Tevye questions his own marriage, which was arranged. He wonders if his wife actually loves him, or is just duty bound to him by tradition. He sings the song, “Do you love me?”
Philosophers propose allegedly deep questions about life, but sometimes professing themselves to be wise, they become fools (Rom 1:22). Some of the “deep” questions are easily answered by a basic knowledge of the Bible:
1. Where do we come from? (Gen 1-2)
2. Why are we here? (Rev 4:11)
3. Where are we going? (Jn 5:21-29)
4. Why is there suffering? (Gen 2:16-17, Gen 3, Rom 3:23, Rom 6:23)
A question that arises in the hearts of people who are not close to God is, “Does He love me?” Sadly, this question too often arises in the hearts of Christians as well. It is not ironic that this most basic question is so often asked. We all have moments in which we struggle with this issue. God has so thoroughly demonstrated His love for man that we should never have to ask this question, but we do ask. It is so simple and easy to believe for those whom God has saved and revealed His word to. So why is this so hard to believe? One problem is we have errant concepts of love. There are 3 Greek words translated love – agape, phileo, and eros. Eros does not appear in the Bible. It means sexual “love”. Phileo means brotherly love or affection. The word agape was literally coined in the Bible. It does not appear in Greek literature before the Bible. This concept of love is foreign to the values of the world. It is altruistic, self-sacrificing love. It is love that puts others first at one’s own expense. It costs the one giving it something. The highest example of this kind of love is God manifesting Himself in the flesh as Jesus Christ and voluntarily dying the most heinous death by crucifixion for our sins. God had nothing to gain by doing this. It was strictly for us.
All Christians must believe that Jesus died for us. It is fundamental, essential doctrine (1Cor 15:1-4). Christians believe this doctrinally, but do they believe it relationally? In other words, they believe it is generally true that God so loved the world (Jn 3:16), but they struggle to believe that God loves them individually. Some people do accept that, but they only believe God loves them as an act of responsibility to His covenant. He loves them “for His name’s sake”. How many people believe God loves them but does not like them? They believe God keeps His word, but they don’t believe God actually takes pleasure in them and enjoys them personally. God delights in His people (Num 14:8, Deut 10:15, Ps 16:3, Ps 37:23, Prov 3:12, Prov 11:20, Prov 12:22, Prov 15:8, Is 42:1, Is 62:4, Jer 9:24). When God chastises us, it is not because He does not love or delight in us. It is because He does (Heb 12:5-14).
God certainly does not delight in sin, but the curse of sin is that it distorts our view of God, others, self, and right and wrong (Jn 3:19-21). We cannot completely separate ourselves from our actions. One who murders is a murderer. One who robs is a robber. One who lies is a liar. A famous saying is “God hates the sin, but loves the sinner.” That is not actually a scripture. It is true that God loves us even when we sin, but we should be careful not to think there are no consequences.
Instead of asking if God loves us, we should be asking if we love Him. God should not be the one on trial. It should be us. He is innocent, and He loves us greatly. If we love Him, we will keep His commandments (Jn 14:15 & 21-24, 1Jn 5:2-3). When we break His commandments, we feel guilty - as we should; but instead of questioning ourselves we begin to doubt that God loves us. We should be asking ourselves, “If I love God, why am I doing this?” It would be most effective to ask the question while being tempted before we act instead of after. If we love Him, we should do His will, not ours.
Jesus said we should love others as we love ourselves (Mk 12:31). He was quoting Leviticus 19:18. This is sometimes quoted to talk about loving ourselves. We do need to love ourselves in a Biblical, balanced, healthy way; but that is not what Jesus was emphasizing. He was telling us to love others with the same love we give ourselves. The best way to do that is to let the love of God into our hearts. So that leads us to the next question – “Do we love others?” We cannot say we properly love God if we do not love others, especially His children (1Jn 2:10-11, 1Jn 3:10-19, 1Jn 4:7-21, 1Jn 5:1).
We can compare the love of God to sunlight. The sun is a symbol of God (Mal 4:2, 2Pet 1:19, Rev 2:28, Rev 22:16). When it is cloudy, the sun is still shining. When circumstances are difficult, it does not mean God does not love us. The clouds are temporary and will pass. The sun endures. When it is night for us, it is only so it can be day for others. The sunlight will be back in the morning and it will be our turn again. He makes his sun to rise on the evil and the good (Mt 5:45). The only reason it is dark is because the ground we are on is not facing the sun at that moment. Light has the attributes of both a wave and a particle. It has substance. There is no substance called darkness. There is actually no such thing as darkness. Darkness is not the opposite of light. It is merely the absence of light. It takes very little light to overcome and penetrate the deepest darkness. Light always overcome dark. Dark cannot overcome light. Debaters understand the principle that you cannot prove a negative, only a positive. You must assert something to make an argument. God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all (1Jn 1:5). He is the Father of lights with whom is not even a shadow of turning (Jam 1:17). He loves us. The sun will shine until the end of the world (Gen 8:22). .