Reformed Baptist Fellowship

To Love or Not to Love

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on April 17, 2010 at 7:40 am

Jesus’ passion is no more than a few hours away.  He has just washed the disciples’ feet, announced one of them was a betrayer and made clear to them that He is leaving (Jn. 13:33)

His announcement of departure has a profound affect on them.  So much so that Peter appears to pay no attention to Jesus’ command to love one another.  Instead he asks Jesus where He is going.  Jesus responds by telling Peter that where He is going he cannot follow now but will later (v36).

Jesus describes the disciples’ reaction to his ‘farewell announcement’ in 14:28.  He says, “If you loved me, you would have rejoiced that I am going to the Father.”

How could they rejoice? Their world just fell apart!  They appear to be disturbed and grieved.  They see this as the end rather than a new beginning.  But this is Christ’s home-going!  He is going home to the Father.  The reward for the completion of His life’s work is to proceed to the One who is “greater than I” (v28).  They should have rejoiced with Him.  Yet they are distraught.

What I find fascinating is the reason Jesus gives for their sadness and lack of rejoicing at His ‘home-going’.  Jesus says it is because they do not love him.

They do not love Him?  They left everything behind for Him.  They have spent the last 3 years with Him and they don’t love Him? How can this be?

If they loved Jesus as they were required to (with all their heart, soul, mind and strength) they would have rejoiced at His going back to be with the Father.  But they don’t love Him that much.  They love Him, but only to a point.  Beyond that point they no longer love Him.  Their love for themselves trumps their love for the God-Man.

When Jesus announced His imminent departure the disciples were immediately confronted with the limit of their love for Him.  It did not extend to that point.  This was evidenced in their disapproval of His leaving.  Leon Morris says it this way: “Instead of seeing Jesus go to the Father, they saw the death of their leader and the disappointment of their worldly hopes.” (Morris, NICNT, p. 661)

This raises a significant question:  Where is the point that my love for me exceeds my love for God?  Can this point be delineated?  Yes.  At the point I choose to sin I know the exact point at which my love for me exceeds my love for God.  It’s not that I do not love Him at all, but that I don’t love Him that much.  At the point of my disobedience my love for me trumps my love for God.

The disciples’ experience is my experience.  When God brings a hard providence is my response one of rejoicing?  My truthful response is ‘rarely’.  And it isn’t that I don’t love God but that I only love Him to a point.  My love for me (and my comforts) often trumps my love for God.  It isn’t until God takes something away that I am confronted with the fact that I do not love Him with all my heart, soul, mind and strength.

This same principle is evidenced in more than just my relationship with God.  It is seen in all of our relationships.  For example:  I love my wife, but I have come to realize that I only love her to a point. At 2:30 in the morning, when our child is sick, I have been known to pretend I don’t hear the crying.  So I let my wife get up and meet the child’s needs.  In doing so I have just told her (and my child) that I love me more than I love them.  My love for my wife and my child has a limit.  I cherish my sleep more than I cherish them.  Our love for our mate stops at the point that we love ourselves more than them.

This also extends to our children.  My child loves me.  But my child only loves me to a point.  When she stomps that little foot and says, “No”, she is declaring that she loves herself more than she loves me. We are all guilty of this.  It is the human condition of being totally depraved.

Now my sin has a face.  And it is mine. My love for God stops at the point of my sin.  And so does yours.  At that point we love ourselves more than we love God. But this was never true of Jesus.

Thankfully Jesus did not know this limit.  He tells the disciples a few moments later that ‘the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me’ (v31).  Jesus loves the Father perfectly and therefore He obeys Him completely—even to the point of becoming sin, bearing the curse and wrath of God on Calvary as my substitute.

Darrell Fletcher
Covenant Reformed Baptist Church
Warrenton, VA
  1. You wrote in such a clear, precise way that we should all take that to heart. Sometimes I feel such an overwhelming love for God that it fills my whole being. It’s putting it into practice that is the hardest. Thanks for helping me to see myself even more clearly. I rejoice that we have such a forgiving God who knows our every weakness.

  2. It’s not easy being shown how we really are…
    Lord,
    Please help me not to forget, and when I do, please God remind me again.
    Thank you for your faithfulness

  3. This is wonderful, a great lesson in the true meaning of love.

    Thank you so much

  4. Well said. I am convicted.

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