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Lovest Thou Me?

by James White

WE make a profession of Christianity, and go along from day to day, and perhaps from year to year, supposing that we are Christians, and that all is well with us; that we are equipped for the encounter of death, and prepared to meet our Judge, and take our place in heaven when it may be we are not able to answer till after long consideration, and then with not a little doubt and misgiving, so simple a question in Christian experience, as "Lovest thou me?" John 21:15. Peradventure the utmost we dare say after our reflection and self-research is, "I really do not know how it is. I hope I love Him." This will never do. The question, "Lovest thou me," is one which every person, making any pretensions to Christianity, ought to be able to answer affirmatively at once. Indeed, we ought not to give our Saviour any occasion to ask the question. It is very much to our discredit--it should make us blush and be ashamed--that our manifestations of love to Him are of so equivocal [uncertain] a character as to leave the very existence of the affection doubtful, and to render it necessary for Him to interrogate us in reference to it. There are many less lovely beings than Christ that have not to ask us if we love them. We act in such a manner toward them that they cannot for a moment doubt the fact of being dear and precious to us. They do not want our words to assure them. They have our uniform conduct and deportment making the silent, yet most forcible, declaration. Has your parent to ask you if you love him, or your child? Have husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, and friends, to ask this question of each other? And no--none but Christ has to ask us if we love Him! And He has not only to ask the question, but to wait, sometimes a long while, for an answer. We have to consider and go into an examination, and call up our conduct to the bar of judgment, and dissect our very hearts, before we can venture an answer. This is strange. It is not so in other cases. If a relative or a friend, more for the gratification of a renewed expression of our love, than from any doubt of its existence, ask us if we love him, do we keep him waiting for an answer? Do we say, "Well, I must consider, I must examine myself. I hope I do." No indeed. We are ready with our affirmative. Nor is it a cold yes we return; but we express our surprise at the question. "Love you!" And we assure the person in the most emphatic and ardent language that we love him, and all our manner shows him that we speak out of the abundance of the heart. But we do not express surprise that our Saviour should ask us if we love Him. We do not wonder at the question from Him. We know too well how much reason we give Him to doubt our affection.

Why should there be such a difference in favor of the earthly objects of our love? Is not Christ as lovely as those other beings--as deserving of affection--as attractive of love? He is altogether lovely. Are they? He possesses infinite loveliness. Nor does that express all. He is essential Love. Nor love at rest, but in motion; nor far off, but near; exerting infinite energy in action, exercising infinite fortitude in suffering; earth the scene, and man the object. It is He who asks, "Lovest thou me?" And he of whom He asks it, is this man, the intelligent spectator of all this love; aye, its chosen and cherished object.

If Christ was not nearly related to us, as those other beings are, that might be the reason of the difference in their favor. But who is so closely related to us, so intimately joined to us, as Christ? He formed us, and in Him we live, move, and have our being. Does not that imply nearness? Is He divine, while we are human? He is human as well as divine--one of the brotherhood of flesh and blood. He came down to earth to take our nature on Him, nor went He up to heaven again without it. There it is--our humanity allied to Divinity, Divinity radiant through it on the throne. Is He not related to us? He says of everyone who does the will of His Father, "The same is my brother, and sister and mother." Matthew 12:50. That alone relates us to Him more than all human ties. But that is not all. Christ is the Husband of the church. He is one with it. If we are His disciples, He is the Vine and we the branches--He the Head and we the members. Yea, "we are the members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones." Ephesians 5:30. Does not this express a near and intimate relation? Now it is One so near to us, so joined to us, who asks, "Lovest thou me?"

Have our friends, whom we are so conscious of loving, done more for us than Christ, or made greater sacrifices for us? Are we under greater personal obligations to them?

"Which of all our friends, to save us.
Could or would have shed his blood?
But this Saviour died to have us
Reconciled, in Him, to God."

And yet we know we love those friends, but this Friend! We know not whether we love Him or not--we only hope we do!

Do other beings find such difficulty in loving Christ? And are they at such a loss to know when they do love Him? Oh no. His Father testifies, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." Matthew 3:17. And He is called also His well-beloved, His dear Son. All the angels of God love and worship Him, and delight to ascribe infinite worthiness to Him. It is only men who find any difficulty in loving Christ. It is only the human heart that hesitates and hangs back. Is there any reason for this--any reason why men should be the last to love Christ and why they should love Him least of all who behold His loveliness? I see none, but I think I see reasons many, and strong, and tender, why we should be first, and most forward, and warmest in our affection to Him. How many worlds He passed to alight on this! How many created natures He rejected, when from all of them He chose the human to be united to Divinity! It may be said of other creatures, "He loved them;" but of men only can it be added, "and gave himself for them." And yet who is so backward to love Him as redeemed man? Not tardy merely. Oh how parsimonious [very sparing] of His love--loving Him so little, that often He cannot ascertain if he loves at all! Shame, where is thy blush; and sorrow, where the tear?

Oh how different Christ's love to us from ours to Him! We have not to ask Him if He loves us. If anyone should ever ask that question of Jesus, He would say, "Behold my hands and my feet." Luke 24:39. He bears on His very body the marks of His love to us. But what have we to point to as proofs of our love to Him? What has it done for Him? What suffered? Oh, the contrast! His love, so strong! Ours, so indolent! So high, so deep, so long, so broad His love, its dimensions cannot be comprehended, it passeth knowledge; while ours is so limited, and so minute, it eludes research!

"Dear Lord! and shall we ever live at this poor dying rate? Our love so faint, so cold to thee, and thine to us so great?" --Nevins.

 

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