When I first started preaching at Ada Chapel in 2017 — when I was still just pulpit supply and not the actual pastor — I was told that it is Ada Chapel tradition to begin every single meeting for worship with the hymn, “Jesus Loves Me”.
And I have to admit that upon hearing that, I inwardly rolled my eyes a little.
Every single meeting for worship had to start with “Jesus Loves Me”? Seriously? How monotonous is that? Didn’t anybody ever get tired of singing a kids’ song every Sunday and want to try something new? Something a little more poetic than “Jesus Loves Me”, perhaps?
But three years and one promotion from pulpit supply to pastor later, if you were to walk into Ada Chapel at 10 a.m. on any Sunday morning, you would find us all singing “Jesus Loves Me”.
Somewhere along the way, that little kids’ song became just as meaningful to me as it was to the Friends at Ada Chapel, and I wouldn’t change the tradition of singing it at the beginning of meeting for worship even if I was given permission.
“Jesus Loves Me” has worked on the parts of me that can be pretentious over the years, and I have come around to embracing the hymn and to looking forward to hearing on Sunday mornings that Jesus loves me.
There is a phrase that has become popular recently, especially on social media. It goes something like, “God loves you as you are, but He loves you too much to leave you there.”
And this phrase is true. God desires to have a relationship with His Creation. And the nature of relationships is such that relationships do not work well if they are one-sided.
If we are to pursue a relationship with Jesus, then we have to put in the effort of following Him. We must allow God to transform our hearts. We must make the choice to love God and to love our neighbors. We must listen and obey, and do what it is that we know to be the Christ-like and holy option.
This phrase necessarily reminds us that discipleship is hard, and that striving for holiness is part of the deal. As anyone who deeply loves another person knows — child, sibling, friend, spouse, parent, whoever — love doesn’t mean that we let people off the hook.
It is important for people to who seek to follow Jesus s to know that there is some accountability on their part. I wholly believe that we don’t just get to call ourselves Christians and do whatever we want.
And yet, I also wholly believe that sometimes, we need to cut the second part off of that phrase, rest in the fact that God loves us as we are, and sing a rousing rendition of “Jesus Loves Me”. True love is always unconditional. That’s simply the nature of love. That’s how it works.
Love means that a person is loved and accepted for who they are, as they are — warts, sins, regrets, and all. And that’s exactly how God loves us.
Paul says it right there in Romans 5: But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. We don’t have to earn God’s love. We don’t have to try harder—we don’t have to achieve some level of holiness before we are worthy of it.
We are simply loved, as beloved creations of God.
When we are pretentious and opinionated, God loves us. When we are loud and obnoxious, God loves us. We are wrong, God loves us. When we hurt another person — intentionally or unintentionally — God loves us.
When we make stupid decisions, God loves us. When we are motivated by fear and aren’t thinking clearly, God loves us. When we are irritable and we find ourselves snapping at people, God loves us. When we are ashamed of ourselves, God loves us. When we are lost and hopeless, God loves us.
We have a responsibility to work alongside God as He turns the trash that we create into beauty, love, and wholeness. But we are wholly, solely, and undeniably loved.
You are loved, Friends. God loves you.
If you are finding that those words are a salve to a wounded and cracked soul, take as much time as you need to immerse yourself in them. If you don’t need those specific words this week, then tuck them in your heart for later.
This has been a crazy year, and if you haven’t already found yourself needing to know that Jesus loves you — you might find yourself needing to know it as the time stretches on.
Jesus loves us. This we know.
For the Bible, life experience — and the song — all tell us so.
Hannah Mullikin Lutz is the Pastor of Ada Chapel Friends Meeting.
Weekly columns are provided to the News Journal by members of the Wilmington Area Ministerial Association.