Most of us have heard the phrase “Jesus loves you”. It sounds ‘nice’, non-judgemental and kind, but what does it actually mean? If God loves everyone, no matter how you behave or what you believe then does it matter how we behave or what we believe? “Jesus loves you” is a phrase that does not actually appear in the Bible and, although it is true and seemingly simple to understand, the word “love” has been so diluted and redefined by our culture that saying “Jesus loves you” is often either meaningless to people or misunderstood.
Too often one might think that when Christians say “Jesus loves you” they mean God looks on you with kindly affection like a big daddy in the sky, indulgently patting you on the head and overlooking any bad behaviour. Or that the phrase means that Jesus loves all your lifestyle choices and endorses all your ideas, clapping from the sidelines and cheering you on like a life-coach.
However, here is an analogy that more accurately portrays what that phrase “Jesus loves you” means.
Imagine a kitten stuck in a sewer pipe underground. It was born down there. It is cold and wet and dirty, and the only light it has seen comes through a pavement grate. It suspects there is more to life than its dark, smelly existence but it has no power to escape. Love comes by and sees that kitten, mewling down there on the other side of the grate. Love is moved with compassion and has the power to rescue the creature, and so Love removes the grate and reaches down into the sewer pipe and offers to help, calling to the kitten in a gentle, kind voice.
Love does not grab the kitten by the scruff of the neck, it holds out its hand and invites the kitten to take that final step to safety.
That is how God loves us. He sees our situation, filthy with sin and trapped in our meaningless lives, and God cared enough to do something to rescue us and He is powerful enough to make a way for that to happen – through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And then He extends an invitation and we have a choice.
If that kitten takes the final step and walks into Love’s hand, then that kitten needs to know two things. One is that everything will change. That kitten will get washed, live somewhere else, do different things and leave behind the life and diet it has always known.
The second thing is that if that kitten takes the hand that is offered, it will belong to its rescuer. Love will own it and, from then on, its life will not be its own. It will not be able to dictate its own path.
Sometimes Love will let it experience things that hurt and that it doesn’t understand – like vet visits and shots. But the kitten can always know that everything Love allows is for its good.
What the kitten can’t do is thank Love for the hand up and then go and live its life on its own terms. It will end up back in the sewer.
Accepting Jesus as our rescuer, our saviour, means that we agree to a wholesale makeover so that we are fit to live in His house, and we also agree to Him being our master – our Lord. If we want any part of our old life more than we want the new life He offers us then we need to understand His offer is all or nothing.
Many churches offer Jesus like some condiment to your life that you can add to what you already do to improve the flavour. That is a false gospel. Jesus is no add on, no rubber stamp for your lifestyle. Jesus loves you enough to pull you out of the mess that you are in and make all things new. His rescue offer cost Him everything on the cross, and in return He requires everything of us if we accept it.
Love reached down and made a way out of your sewer, do you trust Love enough to take His hand?