Living in the cusp of the Bible belt, you often hear the expression "Do you love Jesus?" I hear it at least weekly as I shop in a store or fill up with gas or visit the Post Office with my clerical collar on. Folks are generally pretty friendly and they cannot help but notice that either I have a very small neck brace or I am a minister of the Gospel. And they want me to know that they get it. So they either tell me they love Jesus or ask me if I love Jesus. Amen. I do. But it is a love I struggle with and I suspect every honest Christian will admit to the same struggle. It is one thing to confess what I believe but I am not always in love with that belief.
When what I confess causes me to see the darkness in my heart more clearly, it is hard to admit that I love the Jesus who shines light on what I would rather have hidden. When I am confronted with the inconsistency between my faith confessed and my words spoken, the thoughts of my mind, or the manner of my life, it is hard to admit that I love the Jesus who exposes this disconnect. When I am faced with a choice between what I want and what I know is good and right and true according to God's wisdom, it is hard to admit that I love the Jesus who calls me to go against what is easy and comfortable to choose the right path. When I am caught up in my desires and want nothing more than to pursue them with abandon, I will admit that it is hard to love the Jesus who calls me to live a self-controlled, upright, and godly life. I think you get where I am going.
I fear it is too easy a thing to say "I love Jesus" and to let that suffice for the confession of an informed faith prompted by the Spirit and given shape in the creed or to let it stand while the struggle within the heart pushing back against Jesus and His way, truth, and life is left unsaid. Jesus warned us over and over against an easy faith which is a veneer on our lives. It is for this reason that we daily meet Him on the ground of repentance when absolution restores us to Him over and over again. Daily we wrestle to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and to live captive to His Word. It might be more than we are capable to love Him all the while.
St. Peter famously got irritated when Jesus asked him if he loved Him. I suspect the apostle knew the struggle. After all, when Jesus asked him and the rest of the apostles if they, too, were going to abandon Him, St. Peter did not exactly respond with a glowing answer of confidence. "Where else can we go?" Indeed, that is the dilemma. Where else? Who else has forgiveness for our sin sick souls or hope in the midst of despair or life in the midst of death? It is not that we love Jesus or are in love with Him or think He and His was are simply wonderful. We have no real choice. As hard as the way of Christ is, it is the only way. As hard as the truth of Christ is, it is the only truth. As hard as the life of Christ is, it is the only life.
Do I love Jesus? Some days. Some days I am not so sure. Most days it is enough for me to muster with the saints of old, "Lord, I believe; help Thou my unbelief." How about you?