We sing at churches of Jesus’ matchless love, and rightly so, but do we understand how differently he loves? For example: does he ever show any sign that he wants to be liked? I raise that question advisedly, for there’s a difference between loving a person and liking him. Liking is more a matter for peers. Psychologists who study likability know that one of the quickest routes there is by asking someone to help you with some project, some need; even to pick up a piece of paper you’ve dropped. It sets the person at ease, marking you very quickly as equal and human in some sense. No one likes the person who is always better than everyone else.
So “liking” Jesus is very likely the wrong word for it. And what about being comfortable with him? It could never be on account of our sharing any equality with him; it could only be the comfort of knowing he loves and cares for us as only God can do. “Look at the lilies of the ﬁeld.” he says, and he tells us the Father will watch over us. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden,” he also says. He who will “give you rest,” also says, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will ﬁnd rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30). This is love unlike any we experience anywhere else. The closest parallel is that of parent for child, but it’s only a parallel; no parent, not even the best, really stands in the place of God.
Jesus calls us to love him as the one who’s absolutely in charge. Look through the rest of the New Testament and you’ll ﬁnd that even though Jesus called his followers “friends,” they still called themselves “bondservants,” showing how clearly they recognized his kingship. Paul describes himself that way at the start of many of his letters. So does James, Jesus' half-brother. And they considered it total privilege to carry that title. Paul spoke it brilliantly:
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead (Phil. 3:8-11)
Of all the great mysteries of Jesus’ excellence, sometimes I think his love must be the greatest. It has its frankly intimidating side to it, I’ll admit. Like Peter in John 6:68-69, though, l will follow him, for he alone has the answer. He alone is God, and the fullest revelation of God. He alone has the words of eternal life. I can’t grasp his love completely, but I can still accept it gladly and give him thanks. His love is for you and me, after all. God loved us enough, says that familiar verse John 3:16, to send his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him would never perish but have eternal life. That life begins when we believe, and our experience of his love starts then, too. Sure, it’s not like any human love; not when it comes from the Ruler of the universe. It’s far better, more giving, more secure, and more faithful, just as God himself is greater than any human.
Tom Gilson is a senior editor with The Stream and author of the Thinking Christian blog. This is an excerpt from his new book Too Good To Be False: How Jesus’ Incomparable Character Reveals His Reality. Copyright ©2020 by DeWard Publishing Company, Ltd. Used by permission.