I have to admit, whenever I hear someone (who is well-intentioned) tell non-Christians that Jesus loves them, I always cringe.
I cringe because it has become a cliché, and the fact is that it is so horrifically inaccurate, biblically speaking. Sometimes it is even phrased as:
“Jesus loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.”
If you are in the practice of doing this, I want to shed some light from the scriptures and to encourage you to test this practice (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
Here are five reasons why you need to stop telling unbelievers that Jesus loves them:
#1 People Have Presuppositions
The expression “Jesus loves you” is usually accompanied by a good deed. The turning of the other cheek at an insult, giving a stranger a gift, etc.
The problem is that the Bible says that the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 2:13-16), that they are alienated from God by their wicked works (Colossians 1:21-22), and that their carnal minds are at war with Him (Romans 8:6-8).
People have presuppositions. Presuppositions are underlying assumptions about reality that people use to make sense of their experiences. An example of a false presupposition that many unbelievers have is that man is naturally good. The Bible says none are good (Romans 3:10-12) and that goodness is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) which is not natural to man.
So a good deed carried out by a Christian who says “Jesus loves you” only reinforces what that non-Christian already believes; “I guess there are good people in this world after all!”
Another example of this is if a non-Christian has a presupposition that all Christians are greedy people, they will assume you are only telling them that Jesus loves them to try and sell them something at some stage.
So the presuppositions of the individual need to be addressed before they can understand expressions like “Jesus loves you”.
#2 Terms Have Not Been Defined
Which Jesus are we talking about here? The Jesus of the New Age, who is one of many ways to the divine in us all? Or the Jesus of Islam, who is not God in the flesh and was never resurrected? How about the Bahai Jesus who has already returned as Baháʼu’lláh? And don’t forget the Roman Catholic Jesus who is still being sacrificed in the Mass, or the Jesus of Freemasonry, who is actually Lucifer.
Most of people’s pop-culture understanding of Jesus is as an effeminate hippy who wants to smoke weed and hug everyone he meets. The concept of Jesus fashioning a whip of chords (John 2:13-17) or ordering for all men who reject His rule to be slain before Him (Luke 19:27) would create some serious cognitive dissonance in these people.
And what understanding of love do they have? Is it a romantic feeling that dissolves into divorce three years later, or love so trite that it is used to describe any margin of pleasure, like “I love cookies and milk”, and “I love pwning noobs, lol”?
Saying “Jesus loves you” is a redundant expression to someone who has no Bible knowledge. This person does not understand God’s character, their sin, or what Jesus has done to demonstrate His love toward His people.
What do the scriptures say?
“God demonstrates his love towards us that while we where still sinners Christ died for us.” -Romans 5:8
For someone to contextualise “Jesus loves you”, they first must understand how sinful they are, how righteous God is, how tortuous the death of Christ was and the significance of the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
#3 No Scriptural Examples
Nowhere in the Bible does anyone say to unbelievers that Jesus loves them. We read of Paul reasoning from the scriptures with the Jews and proving that Jesus is the Christ (Acts 17:1-3), and also referencing to the pop culture of his day to share biblical truths with the Gentiles (Acts 17:28-29).
If the prophets, apostles and even Jesus Himself never used that type of terminology, I suggest we follow suit.
The love of God expressed to sinners is always towards the church (Acts 20:28). If one is not in the church, the wrath of God abides on the individual. There are plenty of Biblical examples of God-hating people. Should these scriptures be ignored?
#4 God Is Not All-Loving
This might come as a surprise to some, but nowhere in the Bible does God say that He loves everyone the same. There are clearly two types of love that must be distinguished when understanding God’s love towards His creatures revealed in scripture:
- God’s salvific love that causes unregenerate sinners to be born again by the power of the Holy Spirit and adopted as sons with an eternal inheritance (Romans 8:28-30).
- The general love of God that gives all sinners their next breath, the wicked food, clothing and families to enjoy (Matthew 5:44-45).
If God loved everyone salvifically, then there would be no one in hell. I know you might be thinking, “what about freedom of choice or free will?” Don’t you think that if God wanted everyone in heaven and no one in hell He could set reality up in such a way that people, using their free will or choice would end up in heaven? Jesus is the gatekeeper of hell, controlling every atom in the universe (Hebrews 1:3), including those in hell. God is in the heavens and does all that He pleases (Psalm 115:3), showing mercy to whomever He wills (Romans 9:15-18).
Therefore it is scripturally inaccurate to say “Jesus loves you” without making a distinction between God’s salvific love and His general love.
#5 Salvation Is Not About Us
We must remember that reality exists for God’s glory and that He is telling His redemptive story through history (Isaiah 42:8). Our existence is ultimately not about us, and if God were to send everyone to hell, He would still be worthy of all worship and adoration.
Imagine if someone had been abused as a child and was dealing with some serious PTSD. If you were to say “Jesus loves you”, would they not conclude, “If Jesus loves me, why did He allow me to go through that as a child?“. In this instance, saying “Jesus loves you” could be an insult and fuel one’s hatred towards God. The individual must realise that God is in control of all suffering and has promised to judge and end all evil (Revelation 20:11-15). This fact should comfort all those who have been abused and spur them to consider their own evil actions and seek mercy and reconciliation with God.
You Did It!
Well if you made it this far, I congratulate you. If you found this troubling, can I ask that you take it to prayer? Our feelings don’t always align themselves with God’s Word, and we must continually adjust our views to the truth of the scriptures.
I hope that next time you see or hear someone say “Jesus loves you” to an unbeliever you can send them this article.