Do you love Jesus?

How the statement “I love Jesus” contradicts itself

Love is one’s commitment to values, and is profoundly selfish in nature. [1]

According to the New Testament, Jesus is a symbol of self-sacrifice, not of self-value.

The New Testament is clear that Jesus is God’s disposable son. As we read in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” So far as God is concerned, Jesus’ life is meaningless unless he sacrifices it in the fulfillment of God’s long-ranging “plan” for the salvation of sinners.

As Jesus said in his prayer to the ruling consciousness in Matthew 26:39, “…not as I will, but as thou wilt.” Jesus offered himself a willing sacrifice, “and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Phil. 2:8) New Testament authors apparently held that this sacrifice is the most important and meaningful point of Jesus’ life and ministry. For without Jesus’ sacrifice, believers would have no forgiveness of sins.

Followers of Christ are expected to emulate Jesus’ sacrifice in the conduct of their lives. In his letter to the Roman church, Paul wrote, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” (Rom. 12:1) According to this view, the sacrifice of oneself is a moral duty, a prescription not open to the believer’s choice.

We read in John 15:13: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Thus love, according to the Bible, is measured by one’s willingness to surrender his chief values, not by one’s achievement and/or preservation of values. But this in and of itself has obvious contradictory implications, for one cannot surrender values before he has achieved them. It is then to be inferred that the authors of the New Testament took the achievement and security of values completely for granted.

According to the Bible, Jesus clearly stood for sacrifice. Jesus’ death on the cross, according to statements attributed to him by the gospel authors, is the New Testament’s concretization of this surrender of values. According to the New Testament’s own portrayal, virtue (Jesus) is sacrificed for the sake of vice (sinners). Jesus is thus to be praised for this supreme act of sacrifice, which the gospel narratives build up in the minds of believing readers in the culminating tension of their depiction of Jesus’ ministry and their respective passion scenes.

In John 12:25 (cf. also Matthew 16:25, Mark 8:35 and Luke 9:24), we find the following statement attributed to Jesus: “He that loveth his life shall lose it: and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.” In other words, one who holds his own life to be a primary value and is committed to acting to preserve it, is to be condemned. Conversely, one who hates and willingly sacrifices his life – i.e., one whose actions are not committed to preserving his own life, the one thing that gives him the ability to achieve and hold values to begin with, will be rewarded. In more blunt terms, those who love are condemned, while those who hate are rewarded.

Here the paradox gives away the contradiction between one’s ability to love and the condemnation he is to receive for it, while his willingness to act in defiance of his own values is considered a praiseworthy virtue. This can only be interpreted, if taken seriously and applied consistently, that one’s own life should not be a primary value to oneself and that whatsoever one loves, if not Jesus, will come between him and Jesus. [2]

Those who love (i.e., those who are committed to their values) are not people who sacrifice themselves or their values. They act to achieve, protect and preserve what they value. A man who loves his wife, for instance, does not demonstrate his love by sacrificing her to slave drivers, thieves or moral parasites; he does not surrender virtue for the sake of vice. Instead, he acts in the interest of his values, to protect his wife from that which may threaten her existence. He does not stand idly by with his head ducked in futile prayer while his wife lies in pain after an auto accident. Instead, he acts desperately to save her life and minimize her suffering in any way possible. Why? Because he recognizes that she is of profound, selfish value to himself. Without her presence in his life, he would not achieve the kind of deeply satisfying joy that her presence makes possible in his life. Since deeply satisfying joy of this nature is what makes his life worth living, he will act to protect her. This is the action of a man who recognizes what he values, and why.

Love is incompatible with sacrifice. Sacrifice is the surrender of a higher value for the sake of a lesser value or a non-value. Love is the commitment to achieving and protecting values, while sacrifice is the commitment to their loss. Love and sacrifice are committed to opposite ends.

According to biblical philosophy, the sacrifice of one’s own life to one’s god-belief is the highest moral duty, as exemplified by the climax of Jesus’ ministry, the crucifixion. Jesus is known, not for what he achieved, but for what he gave up. Likewise, the believer is expected to “lose his life,” according to Jesus, for the sake of an admittedly implausible hope [3], a hope which one cannot see or touch. (Cf. Romans 8:24, II Corinthians 5:7, Hebrews 11:1, et al.) But one cannot have any hopes, valid or invalid, unless he is conscious, and one cannot be conscious unless he is alive. A hope which expects one to deny and lose his own life is a contradiction, an anti-life fantasy which the doctrines and the theology of the Bible and its defenders intend to validate.

To “love” Jesus, then, is to love a symbol of self-sacrifice. But self-sacrifice is the repudiation of oneself, and therefore of one’s own values, thus denying the very basis of love. Consequently, the statement “I love Jesus” amounts to “I love what makes love impossible for me.”
Thus, when a Christian says “I love Jesus,” he is effectively contradicting himself, whether he knows it or not.

[1] For a defense of the objective theory of morality and the selfishness of values, see Ayn Rand’s “The Objectivist Ethics,” in her book The Virtue of Selfishness, pp. 13-35. Readers may also be interested in Tara Smith’s Viable Values: A Study of Life as the Root and Reward of Morality, (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2000), 205 pages, including works consulted and index. For relevant discussions of the topic of man’s values and their selfish nature, see the following articles:
Life as the Standard of Value
Objectivity and the Proof of Egoism by Robert Hartford
The Categories, Values, and Value Principles by Robert Hartford
Is Altruism Benevolent? by Diana Mertz Hsieh
Introductory Treatise on Morality by Anton Thorn

[2] The Bible is certainly not without mixed messages here by any means. For in one passage (Luke 15:4), Jesus is reported to have said, “What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?” In other words, one is here naturally expected to act in the direct interest of his values. The practicality of such examples sparsely seasoning Jesus’ folksy wisdom tends, in the minds of believers, to mollify the value-damning spirit of his overall message in other passages. The problem is that such contradictory messages continue to reverberate in the psychology of believers, causing them to compartmentalize their worldview into unintegrated package-deals cut off from one another and enabling the murmuring tension of the evangelical mind-game of the Bible to appear valid in the minds of believers.

[3] I have in mind here Tertullian’s own words, “[T]he Son of God died; it is by all means to be believed because it is absurd. And he was buried and rose again; the fact is certain, because it is impossible.” (De Carne Christi, ch. 5.)


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