Show Notes - Episode 62
Jesus loves me – this I know?
Because some old book tells me so?
How do I know this is real...
Not just something that I feel?
Does Jesus love me?
Does Jesus love me?
Does Jesus love me?
Or is this all for show?
“Jesus loves you” is a staple among Christian catch phrases. It's something that is aggressively asserted, but cannot be demonstrated. And yet there are many, many Christians out there who claim that they feel loved by this fictional character whom they've never physically met and have no iron-clad proof even exists.
“Well, I feel him near me...” You know, I've been walking down dark streets at night and “felt” all kinds of things. Didn't mean any of them were real. What is it that you're really feeling? When you take away all the spiritual bugaboo, what do those feelings mean?
Just so we're clear, I agree with you that those feelings are real. You feel something. The question isn't whether or not what you feel is real. It's whether or not those feelings are originating with what you think they are.
Deception is the number one tool of Christian doctrine. So much of what they do is based on lies and deceit it can be very difficult to actually know where those feelings are originating. They don't want you to think straight, especially about this one specific thing. Believing that Jesus loves you is VITAL to them keeping you under control. Under their control. And they will do anything – anything – to perpetuate this thought inside your head. Think about this for a minute...
No mention of God's love For individuals in the OT
No mention of Jesus' love for anyone in the NT (at least not in any way but that nebulous, corporate delivery we see anytime a guest speaker says “we love you” as he exits the platform).
But, of course, no one ever talks about those two things. We're told that Jesus loves us by third party sources, never from him. The love of Jesus was something that NT writers assigned to his nature as a means of making the Gospel more personal to individuals.
I don't think there is anything more important to most people than being loved. For many, this takes priority over giving love and there are many out there who just take it their entire lives and never give it back to anyone. Some are flat out incapable of loving back. And yes, there are some, probably more than we think, who are incapable of receiving love in any real way. But even those people long to be loved, even if they fail to recognize it when the real thing presents.
Oddly enough, this facsimile of love marketed by evangelical Christianity is a thing that even those who can't receive love get behind. Why? Because loving Jesus doesn't carry the same responsibility as loving a person. With no real interaction or accountability, some people find it safe to love and be loved by this thing they've built up in their minds to be “Jesus.” People can fail to love Jesus and never have to deal with his emotions or any other consequence of a relationship where love doesn't truly live. They can siphon love off of him for the rest of their lives and never once need to stop and consider the impact that being in a relationship with them has on Jesus. This goes right back to the whole notion of churches being havens for mental illness. You can build a dysfunctional relationship with Jesus week to week and delude yourself into believing it's real. No one else loves me, but Jesus does.
And if that's where you're at right now, this next segment is for you...
Here are just a few things you can use as a litmus test of whether or not someone loves you and, of course, I'm going to tie all comments into the subject at hand. Here's how you can tell if someone loves you and how Jesus manages to drop the ball on ALL of them.
(sourced from various psychology-based articles including https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201403/11-ways-tell-if-your-lover-loves-you)
You Feel Safe - “Leaning on the everlasting arms” “You Are My Rock” - “Rock of safety” there are so many songs from hymns to worship songs to Christian rock that drive this concept of safety home to such a degree it just becomes a given in the mind of the believer. Jesus = safe. The world = dangerous. Jesus = Heaven, the world = Hell.
They Listen To You – This one is so important and it is completely lacking in any relationship with Jesus. Of course, the solution to this one is prayer. Whey you pray, you hope that you'll be heard and your prayers answered, but what evidence is there that you have been or that any answer of any kind has ever been forthcoming? You can cling to coincidences and assign meanings to things, but at the end of the day, what proof do you have that Jesus is listening? How does he respond? A voice, a face, a touch, an understanding look... these things can tell you if someone is actually listening to you. How many of these has Jesus used to reveal himself to you?
They Give You Their Time (As opposed to you giving all of yours) – Funny, I spent a lot of time in church meeting Jesus where he was, but I didn't feel him that much outside that setting after the NRE wore off. What time does Jesus give to you? How much time does he spend on relationship-building with you? Is he ever there just for the purpose of being there and lending you support? No. It's your job to praise and worship him and grovel at his feet and all the effort of spending time together falls on you. It's like being the partner in the relationship that always has to plan everything because the other person is too preoccupied or too indifferent to do it.
They Don't Try To Change You - “if anyone be in Christ they are a new creation. Old things have passed away and all things have become new.” (2 Cor. 5:17) “Just As I Am...” Really? More like “If you wanna be one of his you gotta act like one of us...” - Steve Taylor again.
I gave up so many parts of myself when I became a Christian, the worst of them, I think, was music. I listened to NO secular music for nearly two years and felt guilty when it started creeping back in around the time I left for college.
I gave up on my plans to become a lawyer (and I would have been a good one – a damn good one) and went to Bible college where even more of me was shamed and disciplined out of the picture. And yet, through all of that I held fast to the belief that God loved me, at least for a few more years.
They Communicate With You – Don't believers ever fall into this trap... “The Lord told me...” They want so badly to have that two-way connection they start assigning many of their own thoughts to Jesus. Since Jesus isn't real, he needs to be constructed in their heads but thinking someone is talking to you without at least hearing an audible voice (and some have claimed to hear this, too), or preferably seeing someone's lips move when they speak to you, there is no way to say definitively that anyone actually talked to you.
Jesus doesn't communicate with anyone in any way that isn't already chronicled in the pages of the Bible. He can't tell you what church to attend. He can't tell you what movies to avoid. He can't tell you the best time to ask for a raise or promotion. He can't tell you who to marry. He can't communicate, period, because he simply is not real.
They Express The Desire to Be a Source of Help and Support For You – There's a bit of this in the Bible...
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Mk 11:28-30)
“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.” (Jn. 7:37)
Leaving the 99 to save the one – (Mt. 18)
Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. (1 Pt. 5:7)
“What a Friend We Have in Jesus”
“Leaning on the Everlasting Arms”
These things are nothing but a smokescreen to hide the fact that this is not something you will ever experience. You are on your own when the bills are late. You are on your own when the cancer takes hold. You are on your own when your marriage falls apart. You are on your own when you succumb to addiction. There is no help or support from the thing that's supposed to love you then.What help and support does your pastor direct you toward in those moments? It all comes down to “read the Bible and pray.” How comforting...
They Respect Your Individuality (They Don't Try to CHANGE You) – Back to the new creation idea. Someone who loves you accepts you as you are. Literally as you are. And there is a huge difference between accepting someone and making the choice to tolerate them as you try to change them. That's where “love the sinner, hate the sin” comes into play and that, to me, is one of the most manipulative, diabolical things to ever come out of evangelicalism. “We love you, but your behavior, lifestyle, opinions, and actions all make us cringe.”
Anyone who doesn't accept you as you are with no expectation that you will change, evolve, or make adjustments to make them more comfortable to be around you can or will ever truly love you. “I love you, you're perfect, now change” is nothing but the title of a musical. It isn't any way to approach or nurture a relationship.
They Make You Feel Good About yourself – Suicide rates among Christians has always been high. Why is that if their savior holds them in such high regard? What does Jesus do to build up people's self-esteem. Not much if the numbers are any indicator. And what I found really interesting here is that pastors in particular have high rates of suicide, largely over issues where there is spiritual conflict inside their heads.
Most depression among clergy centers around crises of faith. They don't seem to feel God close to them. They don't sense his comfort. They don't feel edified in any way and, honestly, that's not the point is it? We aren't supposed to exalt ourselves. “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Mt. 23:12 (NIV)
That's just it though, isn't it? Many Christians do everything they can to humble themselves and few ever feel exalted. This leads to a lot of toxic thoughts about things like self-worth and also their value to their savior. This is one of those Bible promises that can be easily observed to be fraudulent. There are no provisos or caveats here. The verse says what it says.
And if you never (or rarely) see it fulfilled, how on earth can you trust anything it says about God's love, protection, edification or support? Answer: you can't. And for many who come to that realization, it means the end of anything they believed to be real about their faith. This can be devastating for any Christian but I think it is much more so for pastors. Actually, I know it's more so because I was one of them. I never felt good about myself as a Christian but I'm slowly learning how to now for the sake of my family and all the people I love and who love me, but most of all for me and my own sense of self.
They Show Affection - “Arms of Love” is just a song. I see nothing in the Bible about God or Jesus ever showing affection – you know, giving someone a big reassuring bear hug or even a hand on a shoulder. There's none of that. Jesus outsources comfort to the Holy Spirit in Jn. 14:16 - “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever...” He doesn't even want to stick around to build the relationship.
They Have Earned Your Trust – With all the lies and half-truths in the bible about god's love, protection, and comfort, where on earth is there even room to build trust? Sure, the believer is tasked with trusting Jesus, but they're supposed to do it sight unseen without ever being respected enough to be given a valid or compelling reason why they should.
Faith really is a clever scapegoat. It relieves God of any responsibility to prove or earn anything. We have to earn HIS love. He is deserving of ours simply because of his position. No. Don't buy it. Relationships are bi-directional and what is required of one in a love-based relationship is required of the other, period.
They Put Effort Into Things like.... Knowing You – There are so many things Christians are told the need to do to get to know Jesus: go to church, read your bible, pray... but I don't think I ever heard a single sermon or was taught one spiritual principle that revolved around Jesus knowing me. That's not important because God knows everything and supposedly knows me better than I know myself. OK... so where's the evidence?
Why did Jesus never intervene when I was making bad life choices like becoming a pastor. I never had the attitude or the mindset for it although, for a while, I did a stellar job of cramming the square peg into the round hole. That wasn't me. That was never my personality. If Jesus knew me so well, why did he let me do things that derailed my life?
And I'm SO not alone in this regard. So many people I know – people who wanted to be doctors, lawyers, engineers, architects... all roped into dropping everything and squandering their intellects in bible college and spending their entire lives struggling for the sake of a fairy tale.
People, relationships go two ways. Period. This thing they call a relationship with Jesus doesn't. He puts in zero effort and expects you to live up to his image of you, at least that's the messaging I always got. He doesn't have to work on the relationship because he's perfect. Now it's your turn to strive for that level of perfection and even then, you're told you'll never be worthy. You call that love?
They Don't deal With You In Absolutes – In healthy relationships, there's no, “If you loved me you would....” True love proves itself. True love involves respecting the other person and dealing with the idiosyncrasies. True love doesn't try to force change.
In order to experience Christ's love, there are so many things we need to do. We MUST repent. We MUST make a public confession. We MUST get baptized. We MUST strive not to sin and when we do we MUST repent again. Rinse, repeat, and call it love. Again, very one-sided. Only one person trying to build the relationship... their own book negates the way Jesus deals with us. His brand of love in NO WAY follows the model in 1 Cor. 13. Not even remotely.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Cor. 13:4-7 (NIV)
Envy and pride - God is a jealous god, no other gods before him – Ex. 25
Boastful - “I am the way, the truth and the life...” “I am the good shepherd...” “I am the door...” “I am the resurrection and the life...”
Self-seeking – John 21 “Do you love me? Well do you
“If love is so transcendent, I don't understand these boundaries...” - Rush, Cold Fire
They Want to Meet Your Needs – Jesus wants no such thing. He wants your worship and your devotion, but he isn't at all concerned about your needs. It's funny to me how he promised his believers an abundant life (Jn. 10:10) and yet never supplied any kind of roadmap for how to achieve it. I see him telling people all the things they'll be able to do to bring Jesus more people to worship him (Mt. 4:19, Mt. 28:19, etc.), but I see nothing in scripture about how being a follower of Christ has any measurable personal, benefit to the individual. Nothing.
They Want to Protect You – When I read my bible I see a god who is out to get me if I don't play by his rules. The atonement was supposed to be that protection and yet I have to ask for it. It's not given to me as a matter of cause because my protector loves me. The protection Christ provides is the same as the “protection” the mob provides. It comes at a price and paying that price is mandatory. “That's a nice soul you have there. It would be a shame if something.... bad were to happen to it...”
They Give You No Reason To Doubt Their Feelings – I've said it again, no loving parent deals with his or her children the way the god of the bible deals with his. As long as things like disease and hunger exist in the world I will have my doubts about god loving me. And between the old testament and the new we are given scores of reasons to doubt whether or not god loves us.
It's clear that the Old Testament Yahweh never loved anyone and the very conditional nature of Christ's salvation casts even more doubt. If Jesus wants to save me, why doesn't he just save me? Why must I grovel? Why must I confess him before men? Why must I return to the altar again and again to be re-reconciled to him again and again? Why did god make me with these “flaws” if he couldn't figure out how to accept them?
They Want What's Best For You – Plain and simple, the god of the bible only wants what's best for himself. Ditto his son in the NT. “Worship me and find me more people who will.” That's god's “love” in a nutshell. We all deserve better than that. I do, you do, all of us do. There is no reason any of us should be settling for what this religion and its so-called savior figure has to offer.
One of the biggest obstacles I've faced in my life is feeling unloved. Yes, even in a good marriage, even when things in my life are going well, I still feel that void sometimes – that void that I was taught to feel just before I got “saved.” There is no “god-shaped hole in all of us” (although I DID like Bruce Almighty). It's a product of the stinkin' thinkin' they cram into our heads to keep us in a headspace that relies on imaginary friends to complete our identity.
“You feel unloved, Arthur? Welcome to the world. Everyone is unloved.” To an extent that's true. Not everyone is going to love us and they're not meant to. It's that small group of people who love us at every point in the spectrum, from platonic, to familial, to erotic, that we need to focus on and find ourselves within.
You can be in a good marriage and still feel lonely. You can have a life that looks very full from the outside and still feel like there are things missing. If you spent any amount of time in evangelical faith, I think those feelings become exponentially worse. Your brain has been taught some really awful lessons about what love is and how it is modeled by your so-called savior.
It doesn't matter what some bronze age book has to say. I asked the question last week, what has Jesus done for you lately? Well, this week, I want to expand on the question and ask you this: how does it feel to be loved by Jesus? Do you feel better about yourself as a person? Do you have a more developed sense of self since you got saved? Are your emotional needs being met in this relationship? Do you feel sheltered and protected? Are you happier now than before you decided to follow Jesus?
Honestly, if you're at this point in the episode and haven't bailed I think we both know the answers to those questions, don't we? If you're still in this thing, what are you getting out of it? More to the point, what are you getting out of it from Him? You get plenty in the way of social interaction and acceptance (at least some of the time), but that's what you get from other people. What do you get from Him?
If you're out it's probably because you discovered that so many of the things on that list were missing from the equation. Don't waste one more minute of your life wondering if getting out was right. It was, and you have strength beyond your own comprehension for making that decision and following through on it. You saw through the facade. You know what love is and you knew that it wasn't ever going to be found in a religion that's centered on the will of a seething narcissist and megalomaniac and his slightly more docile but still pretty unsavory, self-absorbed progeny.
Love is too important a thing to be left in the hands of imaginary deities who could never deliver it or sustain it in your life. Love is a two-way proposition. Love your neighbor as yourself. Yes, it's good advice. Love your spouse, partner, or partners the way you want to be loved and understand that you have the right to be loved back. We all feel unloved at times, but if we step back once in a while and look at our lives and the people in it, chances are we can find it somewhere. And if we don't it's our responsibility to go out and find it, being committed to giving as much as we take, and recognizing that we will only ever feel loved to the extent that we are willing to love in return.
If all of that makes sense, then YOU understand this thing called love way more than any religion will ever be able to explain it to you and that means you don't need religion to feel it or practice it. All you need is a desire to give as well as receive and a mind that understands what that really means. Once you get there, it's a pretty good bet that you're at least on your way to getting and staying unbound.