But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.
1 Peter 3:15
A few days ago, a friend of mine shared a story with me about her visit to her son’s elementary school for parent visitation day. This particular day, a little girl in his class had the privilege of being selected as the “star of the day.” She was given the opportunity to share some things about herself with the other students. After telling some stories about a few fun adventures she’d experienced, she finished by adding, “And I love Jesus.”
Caught off-guard by this bold declaration, my friend rejoiced inwardly that this child had been able to proclaim love for Jesus in the public school! Anxious to see what would happen next, she watched as the little girl selected three students from the class who could each ask her one additional question.
One child wanted to hear more about her trip to Disney World. A young boy asked about the NFL game she’d mentioned. And then the last little girl surprised my friend by raising the startling question, “Why do you love Jesus?”
All eyes rested on the star of the day. Why, indeed? A hush fell over the room as both the children and the visiting parents waited to hear her answer.
The hush grew to a tense silence, her unanswered question hanging in the air on pins and needles. No reply followed. The star could find no words to speak in response. Minutes passed before the teacher finally redirected the conversation and brought her time of sharing to a close.
And what of the little girl who wondered why this Jesus was worth loving? She never got her answer.
My heart goes out to the star of the day. I probably would have sat there dumbfounded as well if someone had asked me that question at her age. If I had found the courage to muster up a reply, I’m quite sure my answer would’ve disappointed—at least if the words that came out accurately reflected what was in my heart. “My parents told me I should.”
I spent years fearfully dreading the reality that Christians are supposed to witness to others and share the hope of the Gospel. I never wanted to tell anyone about Jesus. More than two decades would pass before I realized why it frightened me so much. The truth is, I didn’t have anything to say.
I had no real testimony to share. I had lots of knowledge about who Jesus was, and I had learned to respond with the “right” answers early on in Sunday School. But I missed knowing the most important piece of all: Jesus Himself.
I was 26 before I even realized there was a difference. How did I discover it? Jesus showed up one day when I was working through a Bible study.
It was business as usual, filling in the blanks in my workbook so I wouldn’t be embarrassed by empty spaces on the page at our next small group meeting. And then one question—four little words—changed my life forever. “Do you love Jesus?”
I lifted my pen to answer “yes” without even thinking. I knew the right answer: of course! But that day Jesus decided we were going to get real. I’d been pretending long enough, and He had determined to let me see the truth about myself.
Conviction fell over me like a shroud, drowning out any pretense. In that moment, I saw what He saw. I didn’t love Him. I never had. I’d been saying it all my life—at least within church circles—but they were just words on my lips that didn’t match the reality of what lived within my heart.
I remember my hand trembling as I struggled to answer the question. I couldn’t put down the answer I’d started to write, and through the blur of tears, I managed to scratch out two letters on the page. No.
In that moment, I was changed. You see, I encountered the Living God, and I heard what He was speaking to me. I chose to see what He revealed about the darkness in my heart as I stepped into His marvelous light. But what changed everything was my response to the encounter. I wanted to remain there. I wanted to love Him. I wanted to offer Him my heart and trust Him to teach me about Himself. I wanted relationship.
And so the little girl who had grown up in church, attended Christian school, prayed the sinner’s prayer, and married a Christian man, finally got saved at 26.
I began a relationship with Jesus, where I invited Him to lead and I would follow. This time, love shaped the foundation instead of knowledge, and He began to heal my broken places. He started to transform my heart, and the more I discovered about Him, the more I realized I wanted more of Him.
Today, if you were to ask me, “Why do you love Jesus?” you would find I have no loss for words. Instead of Christian platitudes about the cross and salvation, I would tell you sincerely that I love Him because He rescued me out of my emptiness and taught me the way of love.
He is the source of every good thing in my life. He whispers encouragement to my soul when I’m fearful. He assures me of His love when I’m broken and losing my way. He meets me in His Word every time I give Him the opportunity. He has given me purpose. He empowers me to be what I can’t be without Him. He rejoices with me in gladness, and He catches my tears so He can redeem them and bring beauty out of my pain.
Beloved, I love Jesus with everything that I am. He is worth every moment I give Him, every battle I fight for Him, every prayer I utter to Him. I pray you will not settle for knowledge about your Savior. Press your way past the crowds “doing church” and enter the inner sanctuary where His Presence dwells. There He waits to reveal Himself to your seeking heart.
“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.” Jeremiah 29:13-14