“Jesus loves me this I know.” How many times have we sung that children’s hymn? The message it teaches is wonderful; Jesus loves us all regardless of color, race, or any other defining characteristic. He loves us when we are weak or when we are strong. It doesn’t matter; his love for us is unconditional.
As we grow older, though, childhood memories fade and those which we can still recall to some degree, we look at through the eyes of experience; reinterpreting them. All too often we fail to retain our childhood understanding of Jesus’ love for us and replace it with something disturbing: The love of a narcissistic Jesus.
Through preaching, teaching and our own reflections on life we often come to feel if not outright believe, that Jesus only loves us in so far as we are like him. If you recall the ancient myth of Narcissus, you will remember that he drowned after falling into a pool of water while admiring his own reflection.
This is narcissism: loving oneself so much that one cannot love anything else that is not in ones own image. The end of narcissism is self-destruction. Death.
Is this really how we want to think of Jesus? Do we really want to cast him as one who only loves those who are like him? Surely this is an affront to the Love of God and twists it into an abominable thing. God is not a monster! He is kind and forgiving, loving, gentle, gracious. He does not love us by twisting us against our will to be what we are not. He loves us as we are. Yes, he offers us transformation, sanctification, theosis. He gives us grace to become beautiful as he is beautiful. But he does not love us on account of how much we are like him. He love us unconditionally. “But God showed forth his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”, says Saint Paul. That is to say he considered us friends, even intimate friends, before we ever sought him or knew him.
Jesus, the REAL Jesus, is not a narcissist. He loves me, this I know. Just as I am without one plea. He loves you. Just as you are. He calls you to higher, better, more beautiful things, but he loves you NOW. Do not give in to the narcissistic Jesus: THAT Jesus will drown you in guilt and grief.
Jesus loves me, this I know…