Tell Them I Love Them

Full of encouragement, Psalm 91 contains this memorable passage (verses 5-7, all citations NIV):

You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.

Why does God make us such promises? Because He loves us. A lifetime is not enough to understand the quality of His love. John 3:16 tells us, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." I think most Christians spend many years mentally emphasizing the other ideas in this passage: "gave His son" and "shall not perish" and "have eternal life." These ideas seem action-oriented and have visceral meaning to us. We can imagine the sacrifice of an only son; the reality of death and the promise of life loom large in our conscious minds.

But the love of God—the part of the equation that we assume without elaboration—is what set it all in motion. It is the source and origin of everything. God is love (1 Jn. 4:16). Our human minds often resist accepting and studying love; we would rather dwell on problems, threats, theories, and fears—wars and rumors of wars (Mt. 24:6). But what God wants us to know is that He loves us.

An interesting source brought this home to me recently. Some readers may be familiar with the book Heaven Is for Real, written by Pastor Todd Burpo about his 4-year-old son's experience during emergency surgery. Young Colton Burpo spoke months afterward about being in heaven during the operation. He talked about details from Bible prophecy—as well as events in his parents' lives—that he had no natural way of knowing. These disclosures have been convincing for many readers, and have made Heaven Is for Real a runaway New York Times bestseller.

But one thing in particular stood out to me, and that was Colton Burpo's report about how much love there is in heaven. A pastor's child would have been told that God loves us, but this is an unusual report from a 4-year-old. Love is something we only truly understand and appreciate by interacting with a loving God—and it is certainly rare to emerge from an earthly dream or hallucination with an overwhelming sense that God loves us. Other sources may tell us many things about God, our material reality, or our inner selves, but only the authentic communications of God Himself convince us that He loves us.

I am increasingly convinced that God's love is the first principle of the universe. It is the reason for creation: the telos, or ideal purpose, for every positive impulse and capacity with which God has endowed the human spirit. Unlike prophecies, tongues, and knowledge, love never fails (1 Cor. 13:8). And the first thing we must understand about that statement in 1 Corinthians is that it is a promise about God's love for us.

It will carry us through any political upheaval that comes our way. We stand on the cusp of a 2012 that promises to take its place in the record books—but Christ our Savior is born, he has overcome the troubles of the world (Jn. 16:33), and God's message through him is very simple: "Tell them I love them."

12/26/2011 5:00:00 AM
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    About J. E. Dyer
    J.E. Dyer is a retired Naval intelligence officer and evangelical Christian. She retired in 2004 and blogs from the Inland Empire of southern California. She writes for Commentary's CONTENTIONS blog, Hot Air's Green Room, and her own blog, The Optimistic Conservative. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.