LCN Article
I Love You!

May / June 2005

Donald Roach

Have you ever told God, "I love You?" You certainly express your love to your spouse, children and parents. But what do we do about the command that we are supposed to love God even more than our families (Luke 14:26, Matthew 10:37)? God says that He is a jealous God (Exodus 20:5). So, what about Him? Does God want to hear "I love You" from you and from me?

Peter professed love for Christ, yet denied Him not just once or twice, but three times (Matthew 26:69–75). Have you ever denied Christ? Perhaps, unlike Peter, you or I have not stood before other people and denied Christ with our words, cursing and swearing. But whenever we who profess to know God are disobedient, we deny Christ by our works (Titus 1:16).

One could understand how Christ could have been hurt and disappointed by Peter's denial. But Christ had to teach Peter that something was lacking in his relationship with God. Peter loved God with his mind, intellect and might. But his love for God was lacking in heart—feeling and emotion. How was Christ going to reach Peter with this lesson?

An Emotional Encounter

John 21:15 states: "So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, 'Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?'"

What a question for Christ to ask! Christ wanted to hear Peter say: "I love You!" Yes, Christ knew that words can be cheap, and it is one's actions that count (Luke 6:46). He knew that the love of God is that we keep His commandments (1 John 5:3). However, Christ also knew that our words do count! What we Christians tell God is like incense to Him—like music to His ears (Psalm 141:2; Revelation 5:8, 8:3–4).

Peter responded, saying: "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You" (John 21:15), and Christ told him, "Feed My lambs" (v. 15). But Christ wanted to hear Peter say it again, so He continued. "He said to him again a second time, 'Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?' He said to Him, 'Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.' He said to him, 'Tend My sheep'" (v. 16).

Christ was not through yet. "He said to him the third time, 'Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?' Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, 'Do you love Me?' And he said to Him, 'Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.' Jesus said to him, 'Feed My sheep'" (v. 17).

Yes, Peter was grieved. All this talk of "love" may have made Peter very uncomfortable. But Christ was not going to let Peter off the hook. He had to express his love to God. He had to learn to say to God, "I love You." God is not only after the intellect; He also wants heart—feeling and emotion.

Whenever we, who profess to know God, are disobedient, we also deny Christ by our works (Titus 1:16). And God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34), so what He wanted to hear from Peter, He wants to hear from you and from me. Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He still wants to hear the words: "I love You!" God and Christ are One (John 10:30; 17:11, 22; Mark 12:29), and God the Father also wants to hear: "I love You!"

Translations of Psalm 18:1

How did David talk to God? Did he tell God, "I love You"? Psalm 18:1 records his words: "I will love You, O Lord, my strength." In fact, the word "will" is not in the Hebrew; the verse should properly read, "I love You, O Lord, my strength." How have other translators rendered Psalm 18:1?

NEB and RSV: "I love thee, O Lord my strength."

Revised English Bible: "I love you, Lord, my strength."

NRSV and NIV: "I love you, O Lord, my strength."

New International Reader's Version: "I love you, Lord. You give me strength."

Contemporary English Version: "I love you, Lord God, and you make me strong."

Living Bible: "Lord, how I love you! For you have done such tremendous things for me."

Amplified Bible: "I love You fervently and devotedly, O Lord, My Strength."

Complete Jewish Bible: "I love you, ADONAI, my strength!"

Yes, King David told his God, "I love You" without hesitation—without prompting or coercion. That is yet another reason why he is the only one in scripture to be called a man after God's own heart (Acts 13:22). But what does that have to do with you and me? God commands that we imitate His servants. Christ came to magnify the law—to make it more binding (Isaiah 42:21). The law now covers Genesis to Revelation. We must live by every word of God (Matthew 4:4). We are to follow the example of these servants of God (Philippians 3:17; 2 Thessalonians 3:7–9; 1 Peter 5:1–3). We are commanded to imitate them (Hebrews 6:11–12).

God's Deep Feeling and Emotion

God has the deepest feeling and emotion in the universe! Christ was a thoroughly masculine man when He was in the flesh. He single-handedly cleared the temple of merchants, doves and animals (John 2:13–17). The Apostle John, too, was a real man (Luke 9:51–56; Mark 3:17). Yet that same Christ who had cleared the temple of the moneychangers allowed John to lean intimately on His chest when asking a private question among His disciples (John 13:23–25). In today's society, of course, we do not normally lean on one another's chests; we follow our social customs where they do not c o n f l i c t with God's laws (Romans 13:7, Acts 5:29). The point is that Christ was not—and is not— afraid to come close to those He loves.

God's love so permeates His entire Being that He is love (1 John 4:8, 16). One of the great expressions of His love is the sacrifice of Christ as the Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7; John 13:1). On the other hand, God feels such godly jealousy over us, His little children, that His name is Jealous (Exodus 34:14)!

God has a wide range of feelings and emotions. As its Source, God possesses, in fullness, all the fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22–23). God laughs (Psalm 2:4; 37:13). In His presence is fullness of joy. At His right hand are pleasures for evermore (Psalm 16:11).

Can God cry? We all know that God in the flesh cried at the funeral of His friend Lazarus (John 11:35), and that He also sighed and cried over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41). But Hebrews 5:7 also tells us: "Who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear." The verse does not say that He did this, "in the day of His passion," or, "Facing His death." But "in the days of His flesh," that is, during His 33 1/2 long years. Christ cried perhaps hundreds of times, and His cries and tears were vehement (NKJV), strong (KJV), and loud (RSV)! Christ even called His heavenly Father "Daddy" ("Abba") in Mark 14:36! Christ says that we will not be in His kingdom unless we become like little children (Matthew 18:3; 19:14; Mark 10:14; Luke 18:16).

Christ knows sorrow and grief firsthand (Isaiah 53:3). God can also be provoked to anger, wrath, indignation and jealousy (Psalm 78:49, 58–59). God has the very deepest feelings and emotions.

God takes note when we shed tears (Ezekiel 9:4). Our tears are recorded in a book (Psalm 56:8). Of course, such tears are to be tears of deep personal feeling, most often shed privately—not some public spectacle meant to draw attention to ourselves. If we cry in front of others, but not in front of God in prayer, we are certainly not following King David's example!

Be Genuine!

God cannot be conned! Words can be cheap, if they are not backed up by actions. God will not fall for flattery (Psalm 5:9; 78:36–37; Proverbs 20:19). We must show love to our brother (1 John 3:18, 4:20–21), and be commandment-keepers (Mark 7:6–9; 1 John 5:3).

The love of God is indeed obedience to God's law (John 14:15). But our desire to obey Him should bring a response from us. 1 John 3:22 reminds us: "And whatsoever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight." God wants us to love Him with our all—which includes our words. If we fail to love God with our all, including our words, we are actually breaking a great commandment (Mark 12:29–30).

God is a Rock (1 Corinthians 10:4; Psalm 28:1). God is a Rock in His solid character—His dependability, reliability, trustworthiness and durability. He changes not (Malachi 3:6). But God is not a "rock" in His feelings and emotions! Rocks do not cry, but God cried countless times in the flesh. Rocks do not laugh, but God laughs. Rocks do not experience feelings of jealousy, but God is so jealous over us, His little children, that His name is Jealous!

We are commanded to love God (Psalm 31:23). The Apostle Peter and King David literally told God: "I love You!" Our beloved Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ—and God, our dear Father in heaven, our Abba- Father-Daddy (Romans 8:15)— yearn to hear each of us, God's dearly beloved (1 Peter 2:11; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Romans 12:19), say often to Him: "I love You!"