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
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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