Tom Pittman's WebLog

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2005 April 4 -- The Bible Tells Me So

Jesus Loves me, This I know,
For the Bible tells me so.
The university bell tower -- not really bells, it's all electronic fakery -- are playing Sunday-School children's songs as I write this; when the wind is right, I can hear it. The nice thing about electronic fakery is that it can be programmed once and then ignored, to repeat its script mindlessly over and over like the robot that it is. When I taught on campus, I never noticed any repetitiveness (they mostly played hymns, which I enjoyed singing along with), but they lost a number of faculty the year they fired me, among them apparently the kappelmeister. Shortly after the spring semester ended, the bell tower started playing Negro Spirituals -- the same tunes every day, all summer long, and then all fall, all the way into early December when I guess somebody noticed that they weren't Christmassy enough and put up a program of Christmas carols which played over and over all month. In January they replaced the program once again, now these children's songs over and over for three months and counting. Do you think it will last until Christmas? *

The famous theologian Karl Barth reportedly replied to a question, "What is the gospel?" with the first two lines of the children's song quoted above. I don't know why he should have been convinced of Jesus love by finding it in the Bible; so much of his teaching denied the simple truth of what the Bible says, but this line is particularly interesting because in many decades of looking, I have yet to find exactly where in the Bible it actually says that "Jesus loves me."

The Bible is pretty stingy about whom God -- and especially Jesus -- loves. Three particular people, most often the writer of the 4th Gospel, but also Martha and the rich man who went away sorrowful and never became a follower, received that designation. Once in John 14 Jesus promises to love (in the future) whoever keeps his commandments, and twice in the next chapter he tells the disciples that he loved them (in the past) as an encouragement to keep those same commandments. Twice more in chapter 5 of his so-called Ephesian letter Paul mentions "Christ loved us" (again past tense) as exemplar of the kind of love we (and especially husbands) ought to have. That's all. Nothing at all in the present tense "Jesus loves me [now]," and even the love that the Bible does tell us about seems to be conditioned on our keeping his commandments. Wow.

On another occasion [Matt.25:32] Jesus described how he plans to separate the Good Guys from the Damned, and it isn't on the basis of their "faith" nor their correct theology, nor even Jesus' love for them, but rather on whether they went about doing good as Jesus did on earth. The blood of Jesus on the Cross surely wipes away the karma of past sins, but if you don't repent and start doing good instead of sin, all the faith in the world won't do you much good on Judgment Day. Jesus' love does not extend to those who willfully continue in sin.

This I know, For the Bible tells me so.

Further comments...

Dennis Elenburg writes:
I'm pretty sure people get the "jesus love me" from John 3:16. God loved the world, and Jesus gave his life for that love. I can't believe you really missed this obvious one, so I'm curious on why you don't mention it in your list.
It must be my literalistic read-the-Bible-for-what-it-says predisposition. It doesn't say "Jesus loved the world" nor even that "God loves [present tense] the world." There are more verses about the love of God than Jesus. But the song doesn't say "God loves me." Thank you for pointing out this possible misunderstanding. -- Tom Pittman

*  Less than a week after I posted this item, they changed the program on the bell tower.