By Lydia Floren
I have a confession: It has always annoyed me when Jesus’ disciple, John, described himself as “the disciple Jesus loved.” When I see those words, my insecure, overachiever brain thinks like this:
- Phase 1: Annoyance: “Boy, John really thought a lot of himself!”
- Phase 2: Insecurity: “Does God have favorites? I thought He loved everybody. Does he love some people more than others? Where am I on his favorites list?”
- Phase 3: Competition: “What makes John so special? Personally, I like Peter the best. He was one of the Big Three too, you know. And I’m not so bad either.”
- Phase 4: Reality check: “You know, John didn’t call himself ‘The disciple Jesus loved MOST’, or ‘The ONLY disciple Jesus loved.’ He simply called himself ‘the disciple Jesus loved.’”
The truth takes awhile to work its way through my convoluted thought processes, but eventually I get it: John wasn’t proud of being loved by Jesus. He was awed by it. John had experienced Christ’s love so profoundly that it had become THE defining characteristic of his life. To John, Christ’s love was a magnificent gift, a bright light that obliterated all his faults and failings.
For example, In the gospel of John it is interesting to see what John didn’t say about himself. He didn’t identify himself by his
- Importance: “John, one of the Big Three” (Peter, James and John), or
- Role: the only disciple Jesus asked to care for His mother Mary, or
- Occupation: “the Fisherman Disciple”, or
- Family connection: John, a son of Zebede.
- Accomplishments: the NYT bestselling author of 4 books in the Bible—yes, THE BIBLE.
John never said that he was “the disciple that loved Jesus,” although his life showed that he did love Him. John understood that even his ability to love was due to Christ’s love for him: “We love,” he pointed out in 1 John 4, “because He first loved us.”
I imagine John experienced Jesus’ love most profoundly when he was at his worst. John discovered that Jesus’ love did not waiver when he was imperfect, off track, or had his priorities mixed up. Jesus loved John just the same when he…
- Cowered in the boat while his buddy, Peter, climbed out and walked on water.
- Tried to manage things, like shooing the kids away, or sending the 5000 to scavenge for supper.
- Stood by while his helicopter-mother jockeyed for a better position for him in heaven.
- Conked out – in spite of Jesus’ plea to stay awake and pray – in Jesus’ greatest hour of need.
- Hightailed it, when Jesus was arrested, and when they tore his clothes off while chasing him, he kept on running naked.
In his darkest times, John could understand that Jesus’ love was a gift with no strings attached: it had nothing to do with his performance, and everything to do with God’s grace. Jesus loves us the same way. God’s love has nothing to do with our performance, and everything to do with God’s grace. His love is as constant as the sun’s rise. So wherever you are – at your “best,” or at your worst, or somewhere in between – claim this truth by saying today: “I am the disciple Jesus loves.”
Does God have favorites? Of course He does. We are each His favorite.
The steadfast love of the Lord never changes. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness, O God. Lamentations 3:22-23
What about you? When do you experience the love of God?