Love, trust and Jesus

Published 12:02 pm Saturday, January 16, 2016

by Andrew Book

At Courtland United Methodist Church, we just began a series titled, “Seek His Face: Living a Life that Pursues Jesus.” This series is going to look at several stories recorded in the Gospel of John telling how people sought out Jesus. This Sunday, our focus is on John 3 where the Jewish leader Nicodemus seeks out Jesus as a teacher. John 3 is an incredible chapter, and its most famous line comes in verse 16. John 3:16 says, powerfully, “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”

We enjoy quoting that line about God’s love because it is an incredible reminder that God’s love for us is a hands-on, enter-into-the-mess-of-the-world kind of love. John 3:16 helps us realize that the love of God is what led God to become human and come to this earth in order to help us know God and walk with God.

The challenge for us is that we have so many different understandings of the word “love,” that we struggle to know what the word means! We mean something different when we say, “I love pizza” and “I love my children” and “I love ‘The Big Bang Theory.’” So, when we hear about God’s love, most of us begin to think about God’s love for people based on our own love for the people around us. We usually love the people who are close to us, those who love us and those who have shown that they are caring and loving towards us — and we assume that Jesus’ love is the same.

As a result, we can easily begin to picture Jesus as a sort of naïve savior who “loves everybody,” which we think means he trusts all those around him and thinks they all have warm feelings towards him. The reality of Jesus’ love is much different — and we don’t need to look very far in John’s Gospel to discover that reality. The final verses of John 2 (right before the story which includes John 3:16) tell us something very important about Jesus that shapes our understanding of what it means for God to love.

John records this: “23 Because of the miraculous signs Jesus did in Jerusalem at the Passover celebration, many began to trust in him. 24 But Jesus didn’t trust them, because he knew all about people. 25 No one needed to tell him about human nature, for he knew what was in each person’s heart.”

These verses, right before Jesus’ great explanation of God’s love, tell us something important about Jesus. Somehow, it turns out, Jesus is able to love people he knows are not trustworthy, not loving, and not kind. Jesus’ love for them (and for us) does not hinge on how we feel about him or treat him, and he is not so naïve as to think everybody will embrace him because he comes as the Son of God motivated by love.

Every time we confess our failures and brokenness to God during worship at Courtland United Methodist Church, I offer these words (which I find to be one of the most powerful things I get to say as a pastor!): “Hear the Good News: Christ died for us while we were yet sinners; that proves God’s love towards us. In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven!”

Jesus knew people are not always trustworthy, kind, caring or loving, yet he still made the choice to love us. That is Good News for all of us who (at some time or another), fall into the category of un-trustworthy, un-kind, un-caring, and un-loving. However, there is a rub.

If we claim to be followers of Jesus Christ (and only you know whether this applies to you), we are called to love with this same kind of love: a love that does not necessarily trust every person around us cares for us, but a love that says, “I am going to love you and work for your best because Jesus loves you, no matter what you think about me!”

Jesus himself said it this way: “Love your enemies! If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that” (Matthew 5:44, 46-47). Jesus’ love was a commitment to seek the best for each and every person —r egardless of how we respond to him. So, let’s be like Jesus and love — not just the people we trust, but especially those we cannot trust, because that is the kind of love that Jesus came to teach us!

ANDREW BOOK is the pastor of Courtland United Methodist Church. You may contact him at