rebelling against low expectations

What We Get Wrong With “Jesus Loves Me”


Jesus loves me! This I know,
For the Bible tells me so;
Little ones to Him belong;
They are weak, but He is strong.

Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.

I grew up singing these words. I bet you have too.

As kids raised in the church, this is what we sang in Sunday school. This is the song we fell asleep to. As children, this concept that Jesus loves you is pushed into our minds.

It’s true, beautiful, and worthy of our focus, but we’ve gotten it all wrong!

Do you know what my problem is with “Jesus Loves Me”? It’s all about ME!

Every time we see the word Jesus in this song, it’s followed by the word me.

Does Jesus love us? Of course! Should we praise Him for it? YES!

I’m not trying to denounce Christ’s love for us, but I think we have manipulated the concept in a negative way.

Instead of Christ’s love for us being a beautiful act of mercy and grace, we’ve taken this stunning truth and twisted it to be a self-esteem boost band-aid we stick on whenever the world hurts our feelings.

Someone teases me. Well, at least Jesus loves me. He broke up with me. That’s okay, #JESUSISMYBF. The day isn’t going my way. Do you know what, Jesus is working it all out for me.

Do you see the selfishness? If we’re honest with ourselves, we know we think this way.

The most wonderful love in the word has been reduced to a backup love that we fall on whenever we fail to find love from the idols we worship.

The saddest part is that this struggle is rampant with those who were adopted form darkness to light because of the very love they have soiled.

Christ’s love was not given to be used as a healer for the world’s attacks. It was meant to make the attacks ineffective.

It was designed to spark a love in us for God that would be so powerful we would be so focused on loving God we wouldn’t care what the world did to us.

John was so in love with God that he said, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30 [KJV]).

Stephen loved God so much that when an avalanche of rocks hurled towards him he “looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God” (Acts 7:55).

These men weren’t focused on “Jesus loves me.” They were focused on I love Jesus, and because of that, it didn’t matter what the world did to them. They were insignificant. What mattered was exalting Jesus.

When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, He did not pray, “Yes, God loves me! Yes, God loves me! Yes, God loves me! He tells me so.”

Christ prayed, “Not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42). Even Jesus’ life, in His view, was insignificant compared to the will of the Father.

Jesus was so in love with God that whatever He said went. Jesus didn’t pull the, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17) card every time the Pharisees judged Him.

No, because it wasn’t about Him. Jesus defended the one who sent Him.

This may seem crazy, but what if we taught kids to be like Jesus in Sunday school?

What if we deflated their big heads and instead of telling them how special they are with God’s love, we taught them how undeservingly blessed they are?

Instead of just focusing on the amazing truth that God loves them no matter what, what if we emphasized how we need to get rid of the sin in us, which God hates?

What if we amended the words of President JFK to say, “Ask not what your God can do for you – ask what you can do for your God”?

Yet, realize that God needs us for nothing, but still gives us worthless sinners the gracious chance to serve the most powerful being in the universe.

What if we taught kids while singing “Jesus Loves Me” to be overwhelmed by a God that shows such undeserving grace and mercy instead of thinking how great God loving them looks on their resume?

Let’s rethink “Jesus Loves Me.”

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Photo courtesy of Lauren Rushing and Flickr Creative Commons.


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About the author

Keith Seary

lives in New Jersey with his parents, three younger brothers, and two little sisters. He is 18-years-old, homeschooled, and eats a gluten free diet. Filmmaking and teaching the Word of God are his passions, and he hopes to use these passions to strengthen and grow the church.


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  • You have to take both sides – it’s just as dangerous to teach sin apart from God’s love. How about instead of saying, “Jesus loves ME” we say, “JESUS loves even me?”

  • That’s like a gut punch to a lot of people’s childhood, but you’re totally right! It really is a very me-centered song and whole of lot kids grow up singing and hearing it. That’s also a problem I have with a lot of modern worship music! I mean, do you realize how me-centered some of those songs are? Some of them are almost not even about God at all!

    That’s my rant! 🙂

    Hey Keith, so you’re a filmmaker? What type of projects do you work on? I’ve dabbled a bit in film making, writing, and directing myself, so I’m curious to hear what another teen has to say! Thanks.

  • It’s ironic how Christians always claim “We need to be in the world but not of it.” Or “we must be set apart from the world”, and then we turn around and slowly adopt these feel-good, fuzzy messages that makes Christianity the opposite of what it truly is. I’m saddened by the music that I turn on in the radio, especially on CCM stations that blast the obvious message that we make ourselves stronger by our own strength….and oh yeah….and the strength of God, I guess. Um no. We are weak human beings that have sinned and fallen short of His glory and perfection.

    Thank you so much for putting this out there:) I’m encouraged.

  • Wow, you’re totally right Keith! Our culture is so focused on “me” that even the church seems to have bought into the idea. And I totally agree with Martial Artist about modern worship songs. Thanks for sharing this!!

  • Thanks so much for writing this! My church stopped using that song a long time ago for the same reasons. I mean, do we really want God to be Good or just on our side?

    • Okie,
      The depths of God’s love because so much DEEPER when we understand who exactly it is that He is love. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity,
      sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of
      anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness,
      carousing, and things like these (Gal. 5:19-21). What an act of Love! I’m not trying to say “Jesus Loves Me” is the problem. The problem is the self-exalting mindset that to many have while singing it.

  • Such a great perspective! I think there’s nothing with the song, but if that’s all that we teach kids about God’s love, they are missing the point! Like you said, it isn’t about us! Yes, Jesus loves me, but that needs to motivate me to live a life that is pleasing to Him!

    • Stephanie,
      Thanks so much for your comment. I have no problem with the song either. My goal was to show, using the song as an example, that Christians tend to misinterpret God’s love in a way to make us look good, instead of understanding that God is good. He is the one loving the sinners after all. Thank Goodness for me! I am not great because of God’s love, I’m unnervingly BLESSED!

  • I definitely agree with Kate and Martial Artist. Because I’ve grown up in…. not independent baptist kjv only churches, yet churches that are much more reformed than the average american church, I was shocked when I realized what the average modern/nondenominational church’s worship music is like. I know somebody who won’t listen to any contemporary christian music, so I decided to do a little research. One answer actually made sense: some people don’t like ccm because it is used as worship music when it’s talking about ourselves instead of praising God.

    Another thing that I thought of when I read this, is how “Jesus Love Me” actually has two other verses, but they aren’t sung very often because people don’t like to talk about dying to children…

    “Jesus loves me; He who died,
    Heaven’s gates to open wide.
    He will wash away my sin,
    Let his little child come in.”


    “Jesus loves me; He will stay,
    Close beside me all the way,
    If I love him till I die,
    He will take me home on high.”

    I would also add that while I think you are right with everything you said, we should keep in mind that this song WAS meant for young children, so I’m pretty sure the writer purposely didn’t make it to be extremely deep theology. It was probably originally intended to be an explanation of christian fundamentals on a preschool level. So, we can’t pick on it too much in that sense.

    • Hey Olivia
      Thanks so
      much for the input. I totally understand that this was meant for young children; the problem is that as Christians grow it is common to neglect adding the verses I am so glad you shared. Also, I don’t think there is anything wrong with sharing deep theology with young children, especially when it is in regards to the Gospel. That is one of the amazing aspects of the Gospel, it is deep, but yet a child, through God’s love, can still comprehend it, leading to salvation!

      • Well, yeah, but what I meant is that preschoolers aren’t going to understand things like how Jesus was a person and God at the same time, and stuff like that. At least, it would be pretty uncommon and special for a preschooler to have such insight into things that even we can’t fully comprehend. And as for the problem of remaining with weak and shallow teaching, I do definitely agree and get that. A couple weeks ago our lesson in youth group was on the danger of apostasy, and how we should always be growing in our faith.

    • We usually sing a slightly different version of the last verse, and I like it even better! =)


      “Jesus loves me; He will stay,
      Close beside me all the way,
      Thou hast bled and died for me,
      I will henceforth live for thee.”

      Just thought I’d share…

  • You described the church of today. I would guess that more than 90% of churches have fallen for this lie. It just seems to be a precursor to the Lord’s return.

    2 Timothy 3:1-5 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

    • I just read this passage in my personal bible reading a few days ago. While I did think some of the same things, some of those things are the way many people have always been. So… maybe this is talking about the intensity of these things in the end?

      • Olivia,
        I agree. This isn’t new to humanity. But when you view it from today’s perspective with the events going on in history, I tend to believe we are closer than many think. While we are busy trying to celebrate Jeses’ first coming, most have forgotten the Secod Coming.

        Luke 17:20-35, 37 Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” And he said to the disciples, “The days are coming when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. And they will say to you, ‘Look, there!’ or ‘Look, here!’ Do not go out or follow them. For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all— so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed. On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it. I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed. One will be taken and the other left. There will be two women grinding together. One will be taken and the other left.” And they said to him, “Where, Lord?” He said to them, “Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.”

        Have a blessed Christmas,
        Ms. Jean

      • I think that intensity is a good way to look at it but I think it’s also showing how there will be less and less people who adhere to a moral system at all. There have and always will be people who are self absorbed and wicked but the number of the people who are holy and upright will grow fewer and fewer in the last days therefore not being able to counteract the sin.

  • What a thought provoking article. I think you are spot on, Keith. Thank you for writing and sharing your perspective! 🙂

  • We must experience the love of Jesus in order to grow in faith. A child singing this song is learning that Christ loves him as young as a toddler. They are experiencing that love as an adult holds them and sings to them these words lovingly. They experience the love of Christ thru this and thru further experiences of love and discipleship grow to understand that what Christ did on the cross was because He loves us. I get what you’re saying in your article and agree that as Christians our adoration should be about Christ and being less of us and more of Him, but that is a mature perspective. We must first experience love, before we can grow in faith. I’ve seen in my own children an understanding that they are loved thru this song and the song,”Jesus loves the little children of the world”. Look at Peter in the bible. He grew in faith as he learned that he was loved. The Peter that is called the first time by Christ, is not the same Peter that is called the second time by Christ to follow Him.

    • Hi Erin,
      Thanks for the feedback.I’m not saying we should not sing “Jesus Loves Me” to children. What I was attempting to do was start with a highly recognizable Christian song, that in and of itself is is a beautiful displaying of God’s love and use it to support the “mature perspective” that we tend to twist God’s love. I also believe teaching this twisted love to kinds can lead to some real problems. Singing “Jesus Loves Me” is a great way of teaching young children. We just need to follow it up by teaching what God’s love looks like and how it should affect our lives.

  • I respectfully disagree.

    We must trust that in our recognition of Gods love for us, we will begin to love him. We love because he first loved us. We don’t have to be “told what we ought to do” to make sure we’re on track. If you love Him, you will do his will. It’s that simple. No needed fear or caution.

    The only way my heart gets the love for Jesus is when I steep in His love for me, which in and of itself with the power of the Spirit is transformative.

    Why should we fear or be weary of acknowledging his love for us? To me this seems like a path to guilt-ridden self-detrifying religion in an attempt to self-justify.

    Yes Jesus loves me. And you. And all of us. And it’s his place at the one who Loved, which has transformed me. I can never bask in that truth enough.

    • Drew,
      Thanks so much for your comment. I appreciate what you are saying, but I think we are saying the same thing here. No where do I say we should reject, deny, devalue, defocus, not recognize, or distort God’s love for us. In fact I do the exact opposite. I am challenging us to see God’s love in its fullest, purest, truest form and bask in it and see it transform us just as it did Paul and Steven. We should not “fear or be weary of acknowledging His love for us.” What we should fear is distorting it. That is what I am trying to warn against.

      • Ah. Yes that is true.

        Perhaps it would be wise for us (this meaning anyone in the Christian blogosphere) to avoid using potentially misleading titles and references.

        Keith, I agree with what you shared in your above comment. And I see that many are recieving it how I first did, judging from the comments.

        Perhaps, in the future, we can all learn to address things more clearly, and rely on the content of the message to reach an audience, rather than the click worthiness or shock value of the title and initial paragraph. The method with which you approached this article seemed to direct your message in the opposite direction you originally intended. But hats off to you for tackling this subject and getting your thoughts out there. Keep writing my friend.

        Blessings. And have a merry Christmas. 🙂

        • Hey Drew. I wanted to step in for a moment to mention that Keith did not come up with the title of this post – as editor-in-chief of The Reb, I did. And I think it’s a pretty suitable title to match the important message that Keith is trying to get across – that is, there’s nothing wrong with “Jesus Loves Me” per se, but when we use it to over-emphasize God’s love for us at the expense of our obedience and response to Him, we’ve gotten “Jesus Loves Me” all wrong.

          This has been a great thread of discussion. Thanks for the thought-provoking post, Keith!

  • Wow. To adress a couple topics…We should realize the song is a part of class, not all of it. So we should consider how we pair that with teaching and discusion, etc.

    I appreciate your zeal to see christians live “for” God (which is a great thing!) but we must first remember our value is in our unity with Christ

    “Obedience is the response to worship”

    You all are awesome 🙂


    • Hey
      Thanks for reading. I never meant to communicate “Jesus Loves Me” and what it communicates is wrong or bad. Its the opposite. The problem lies in how we interpenetrate God’s love. I agree that there is teaching going along with the singing, and proper teaching of God’s love and this song make for a bionically solid message. The problem is when distorted teaching is coupled with this song, it can produce many problems. The problem is not the song. The problem comes when bad teaching surrounds the song.

      • I would also add that worship is the result of a proper understanding of God, His relationship to man, and His love towards us. If this understanding is flawed, then worship will be flawed, and the fruit of obedience will be distorted or not produced at all.

        • Yeah, that makes sense…We need to see the broader picture. I’m just trying to remember our value is in our identity, not our action.

          btw I like your profile photo with the camera!

          And if no-one has told you…Thank you-for writting! Its good to discuss (or disqus) and dialog about the God we serve and love.

  • Amen! Amen! Amen! Thank you for speaking up on this highly messed up topic in the church! How self-focused we have become. I think one of our biggest problems is that instead of viewing God as God, we view him as a nice grandfather lavishing us with treats as if we deserve them. But on the contrary, because of his un-explainable love toward our worthless selves it should be our lives to us to pour ourselves out in love for God!
    By His breath, Dorothy Elaine

  • Thanks for this post Keith! It really inspires me to love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, and mind.
    It seems like a lot of Christians today focus so much on how much Jesus loves them, and how special he makes them feel, and how HE saves us from our pain and sorrow (myself included). I hear all the time about saying they think of the cross and remember how much God loves US, but I think we should all look at the cross and remember what God has done and let that beautiful realization spark a continually deepening love for God. I truly believe that its the Christian who’s heart is set-on-fire in love with God who are the strong, Stephen-like followers of Jesus Christ.
    So again thanks

  • Jesus loves me! He will stay
    Close beside me all the way;
    Thou hast bled and died for me,
    I will henceforth live for Thee.

    Interesting post, but the author should have read all the lyrics, not just the main ones 🙂 I get the idea, but don’t use this song as an example because it doesn’t illustrate your point very well. This song isn’t all about me. It starts with what Jesus did for me, mentions things about the gospel as a whole (Wanting as a friend to give / Light and love to all who live), and ends with a call for us to respond. It is simply making the gospel personal and applicative, acknowledging that it all starts with Jesus choosing to love the unlovely. 🙂

By Keith Seary
rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →