Q. I am certain Jesus loves me, and I love Him. After all, I am His creation and He made the ultimate sacrifice for me. That said, have we taken that concept too far as Western Christians? Have we assumed too much when it comes to how much Jesus loves each of us “personally”? Have we become too arrogant or prideful in our assumption?
Frequently an athlete will say after a win,”I thank Jesus for this win,” which is great, but what about the losing competitor? Are we assuming that Jesus does not love them as much?
Some time ago I heard a lady tell the story of how she missed an airplane flight and she was glad the Lord had caused her to do so because the plane went down and all the passengers were killed. It appeared to me that she made the assumption that Jesus loved her more than the other 200-plus folks who made the connection.
Is this taking our understanding of Jesus’s love for each of us personally too far? In other words, have we in this day and age misinterpreted God’s love for us individually and become arrogant, like James and John who requested that they alone were loved so much that they should be seated on the throne next to Jesus?
I certainly agree with you that when good things happen to us or bad things don’t happen to us, we tend to feel gratitude toward God and a sense that God loves us. I also agree with you that there are the troubling implications that perhaps God does not love people as much for whom good things do not happen or bad things do happen.
So there is another way to look at it. We could say that the gratitude we feel towards God is actually a recognition of his character as a loving, gracious, generous, and merciful God, and that any success or mercy we might experience triggers this recognition in us. But the success is actually the result of the hard work and perseverance of someone to whom God has given talents and ambition (for which they should genuinely be grateful to God), while failure or tragedy are misfortunes that happen to people in a world that God has created with a moral framework but in which God does not determine every specific event. If a person is spared a misfortune, direct divine intervention may not have been involved, but that person should nevertheless take the experience to heart and resolve before God, with gratitude, to make the best use of the time they will still have in this life.
This would avoid the unfortunate implications of the first view. However, perhaps it removes God too much from the picture. So I would actually recommend a third view. It is generally the same as the second view, except it allows for the possibility of direct divine intervention in particular cases, for God’s sovereign purposes. In those cases, the recipient of the blessing or mercy could well recognize it as coming directly from God, but others looking on would not necessarily have the benefit of that insight. So in such cases I would recommend being just as careful as we would be under the second view. We would not say in public, “I’m convinced that God spared my life for a purpose,” if there were others who were not spared.
I think the principle that applies is, “What you believe about these things, keep between yourself and God.” So, for example, if you are a young athlete who wins an important tennis match, you could thank God for the gifts of health and strength. But also be sure to congratulate your opponent on his or her excellent play and say what a pleasure and privilege it was to compete with him or her. And do not attribute your victory to direct divine intervention!