Published On: October 4th, 20215694 words28.5 min read

Indoubt is a ministry of Back to the Bible Canada with a focus on ministering to the spiritual needs of young adults across the country. Every week we present a conversation with a qualified Christian leader to discuss the issues of life, faith, and culture that young people face every day. Topics discussed range from spiritual disciplines to self-image, the sanctity of life, fear, forgiveness, the reliability of the bible, sexual purity, loneliness, joy, if it’s important to the life and faith of young people we want to talk about it.

This week Jared Wilson joins us to talk about his new book, Love Me Anyway. There may be no more powerful desire in the human heart than to be loved. And not just loved but loved anyway. In spite of what we’ve done or left undone, in spite of the ways we’ve failed or floundered, we long for unconditional, lavish love that we know deep down we don’t deserve. Join guest host Jake Lowell for this important conversation, and if your listening, we have 3 Love Me Anyway books to give away to the first who email us at info@backtothebible.ca. Ask for the book and let us know why you listen to indoubt.

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*Below is an edited transcription of the audio conversation.

Speaker 1:

Welcome to the indoubt podcast where we explore the challenging topics that young adults often face. Each week we talk with guests who help answer questions of faith, life, and culture, connecting them to our daily experiences and God’s word. For more info on indoubt visit indoubt.ca or indoubt.com.

Jake Lowell:

Hi, my name is Jake Lowell. I’m the guest hosting for the next couple of indoubt programs. You might recognize my voice from the most recent youth homelessness episode of indoubt, but don’t worry too much Daniel will be back soon hosting again. But today I have the real pleasure of welcoming Jared Wilson. Jared is an assistant professor of pastoral ministry at Spurgeon College, author in residents at Midwestern Seminary, and director of the Pastoral Training Center at Liberty Baptist Church and doing all of that while living in Kansas City, Missouri. He’s here to talk about his new book, Love Me Anyway. How you doing Jared?

Jared Wilson:

I’m doing really well. Thanks for having me.

Jake Lowell:

Well, thanks for being here. For anybody who’s a little bit unfamiliar about you, you know what, maybe tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you get up to in your free time? Hobbies? Anything like that.

Jared Wilson:

Oh sure. Okay. Yeah. So I’ve been in local church ministry for 20 some years. I started the summer I graduated high school actually, 1994 as a youth pastor. And from there, have transitioned in the last six years to teach at Midwestern Seminary, which is in Kansas city, Missouri and I teach pastoral ministry, also serve as the author in residence there at the seminary. And I’m still invested in my local church. I lead a residency program called the Pastoral Training Center where it’s my privilege and blessing to get to kind of pass the baton so to speak for young guys, training for pastoral ministry themselves to try to do some discipleship and spiritual formation and sort of invest in the next generation.

Jared Wilson:

So that’s what I do professionally. And I write books and travel and speak and all that sort of thing. In terms of hobbies, I’m really excited about this next season. My wife and I, we just dropped off our youngest daughter to college up in Pennsylvania, up in the Northeast United States. And so we’re getting to travel a whole lot more together and we’re just really excited to kind of see what this next season of life is like. So my favorite hobby is just hanging out with my wife.

Jake Lowell:

Awesome. Well, I’m sure she’s going to hear that too. She’ll be a fan of that one too so. Yeah. Let’s get into talking a little bit about this book, because I’m really excited about it and really excited about what you’re writing about here in Love Me Anyways. But as we get into that, yeah, maybe as we begin, just like what led you to writing that book in this time? And was there a specific need that you saw or what sort of led you to that?

Jared Wilson:

Yeah, that’s a great question. Actually, a few years ago I began doing kind of an in depth study on the love of God. And in fact, even some of my doctoral work, I’m earning my doctorate right now. And so I did really a good part of a year, just sort of reading nothing but books on the love of God and doctrines related to love and that sort of thing. So everything from really academic stuff, to even just more sort of Christian living, devotional type things. And out of that sort of study came sort of a series of sermon that I preached at different churches and at conferences and things, and just really dwelling in that subject, which to take maybe 30 steps back, really just comes from a place in my heart.

Jared Wilson:

I’ve always struggled even from childhood, with the sense of felt love. So I knew intellectually my parents love me. I don’t come from a troubled background or anything like that. I grew up in church. So I grew up hearing all the time that not only does God love me, but God is love. Right. As John says in first John. So I knew all these things intellectually, but my felt experience was one of anxiety, and insecurity, and a lack of assurance. And always kind of feeling like maybe he loves me because he kind of has to, but I don’t know if he likes me and I certainly don’t feel like a lovable person. And so this book is really just sort of the eruption of all of that kind of pushed it down into, distilled into a chapter by chapter journey through first Corinthians 13, which is maybe the most famous love passage in all of literature.

Jared Wilson:

Certainly, in the scriptures, it’s the most famous love passage maybe aside from John 3:16 perhaps. And just sort of looking clause by clause, okay, what is love? How can we experience love? And so I threw in the kitchen sink. It’s very autobiographical. So I tell a lot of my own story, my marriage falling apart, childhood, trying to seek out the feeling of love and always kind of running up against a brick wall and trying to feel love and be loved. Exploring the themes of love, especially popular music.

Jared Wilson:

There’s a reason why love songs are the most common songs that there are, because if you go all the way back to Genesis chapter two, where Adam sees Eve the very first recorded human words in history are love poets. It’s a love song. Adam seeing Eve at last and the way that’s formatted tells us that he’s in a sense reciting this deep seated need in himself. And so since then we’ve been just the human race, we’ve been trying to get ahold of this love, we wonder about love. And so all the chapter titles and all the subheads are love songs, titles of love songs.

Jake Lowell:

Yeah. I love that. And I love especially too and really appreciate that personal approach to writing about love and it almost feels like it needs that because it would kind of be odd to have this cold calculated idea of like this as what love looks like.

Jared Wilson:

Yeah.

Jake Lowell:

But I think too, like I work with young adults as well and community groups at church and life groups. And it feels like that word love is thrown around a lot as well. And we use that word for multiple different things as well in our culture from like, I love chocolate to like, I love my nieces and nephews. Those mean very different things.

Jared Wilson:

Yeah.

Jake Lowell:

But I think in terms of Christian culture, we throw that around a lot too. We say like, oh, we just need to love those people. What does that mean at all? Will this sort of speak into that or make distinctions, you’re like what is love and what are we talking about?

Jared Wilson:

Yeah, certainly. So using sort of the biblical parameters or teaching on love, I offer a definition of love and certainly, the kind of relational love. Because I do, even mention that there are kinds of love, like I love my dog and I love ice cream and all those sorts of things, and I love music. And I think that’s appropriate language, because what we’re expressing is a kind of affection. There’s something about this thing, or this, music or whatever it is that speaks to me or resonates with me. There’s some gleam of as CS Lewis says, there’s a gleam of celestial beauty falling on those things, and that’s why we tend to resonate with them or they resonate with us.

Jared Wilson:

But the definition I offer of love, of relational love is, an orientation toward others for their good and for their glory. And that relates to not just God’s love for us, but also our love for God. That we are trying to magnify him. To love God is that we want to glorify him and we want to contribute to witness to his greatness, but also our love to others. That when we regard each other as fulfillers of us, if I’m trying to get out of someone or if I am quote unquote loving someone simply because of what they do for me or how they make me feel or so on and so forth, that’s not real love according to the scriptures. Love is unilateral in the sense that I’m after their good and their glory. And as anyone who’s ever loved somebody, truly love somebody would know that can be very costly sometimes. That can be hurtful sometimes. That can cost us quite a bit.

Jared Wilson:

So, I examine that from the Bible and Jesus, even talking about to follow him, to be a follower of him, in other words, to love him enough, to identify with him and pledge allegiance to him. And then by extension, to follow his kingdom ways means loving other people. He says that means denying yourself and taking up your cross. And so of course the ultimate expression of love is of course what Jesus did, atoning for sinners at the cross himself. And that becomes sort of the image for how we’re to love others.

Jake Lowell:

Yeah. There’s a couple really good things there. And one, it sounds like you’re saying that it’s not just sort of this thing that floats around like love, but it’s almost directional.

Jared Wilson:

Yes.

Jake Lowell:

Love is directed towards something and others, but like God and people, but it’s also from what you’re describing there, it sounds radical, which I think it is in the Bible because it is about a lot of selflessness, it sounds.

Jared Wilson:

Well, absolutely. And I think this is one of the great sort of ironies of first Corinthians 13 in particular, right? So again, most famous passage, probably on love. It’s recited at countless weddings, even at weddings where bride and groom may not even necessarily be believers, but they want some kind of whiff of religion. Or they want some sort of… In the same way, we sing amazing grace at every funeral. Whether people actually believe it or not, or have been transformed by that grace or not. At every wedding, we read first Corinthians 13 because it’s the love chapter. And of course you’re going to read that. And so there’s times where you think, do you really believe this? Because when you read first Corinthians 13, what it’s calling us to do is so antithetical to a lot of the romantic or sentimental notions of love.

Jared Wilson:

I don’t think it’s completely separate. I talk about romance in the book and sentimentality and all those sorts of things and even the feeling of love, but the biblical center of love is that it is not self-seeking Paul says in first Corinthians. It’s not about fulfilling ourselves. It’s about the good and glory of another. And that passage is so radical that we wouldn’t keep a record of wrongs, that we would be patient and kind, that we would not be arrogant or irritable. The bar that it sets is just so high. As you said, it’s a radical call, the call to love.

Jake Lowell:

Yeah, Absolutely. It kind of seems like it goes right in the face of our culture, which is very like self, what do they call it? Well, like to treat yourself sort of culture.

Jared Wilson:

Right.

Jake Lowell:

Self care time and all these sort of things. And that’s all we’re focused on. But what it sounds like though is, and even doing that in that selfless love that we’re also receiving a greater love than we would from just sitting in like whatever we call, like self-care like, Netflix or shopping or whatever. It’s like, yeah.

Jared Wilson:

Yeah. Well, and that’s the promise from God, that to know him is, is to know his love, whether you feel it or not. The feeling isn’t the most paramount thing. Although I do try to address that. And that’s a serious thing because we live in a broken world in a fallen world and we’re all broken people, not just because original sin, but just because we live under the curse. So it could be things even that we’re not directly responsible for, people who deal with depression or anxiety and things that aren’t the result of a sin per se, maybe the sins of others, but not necessarily our own. Or it’s just because we have frail bodies in a frail world, we struggle with this feeling. And so when the call comes to love others in a self crucifying way, we think, gosh, this is the annihilation of myself, but Jesus says, no, no, no, I’ve come to make your joy complete. That you’ll actually find yourself in the losing of yourself.

Jared Wilson:

And in fact, because love must have an object when we are self emptying, we see in the way of Christ that he will complete us. He will fill us with his love. He will never forsake us. Right. Paul writes in Romans that nothing can separate us from his love. So certainly what happens in the sort of self crucifixion is that God doesn’t leave us hanging. He doesn’t say like, I’m going to leave you as wretches. If we will consider ourselves wretched and submit ourselves to him, whatever that means, he’s going to establish us, he’s going to fulfill us, he’s going to justify us and we can know what it means to be loved.

Jake Lowell:

Yeah. And that gets back again to that directional idea, right? We’re almost a conduit because we’re sort of simultaneously receiving and giving because the Lord’s loving us. And through that, we have that ability to love other people.

Jared Wilson:

Yeah. In fact, I’d say it’s extraordinarily difficult if not impossible to genuinely love others in this way if we are not drawing close to God because we can’t give what we don’t have. Right. So if you’re feeling empty and you see this call, gosh, I need to empty myself for others. Well, I’m already empty. I don’t have anything to give. But as Christians, we believe in the super naturality of the world and of reality. We have a heavenly sense of existence. And therefore we know that God can fill us with his love that we might extend that out to others. The power comes from him, so to speak.

Jake Lowell:

Yeah. And there seems to be an important point there. And you mentioned this phrase earlier, and I think there’s an important distinct there that maybe you can speak to. The difference between this phrase that like, God is love, so he sort of inhabits that and it’s not just that God is loving, but that he is love.

Jared Wilson:

Yes.

Jake Lowell:

Could you speak a bit into that?

Jared Wilson:

Yeah, absolutely. Because love must have an object, right? So as you said, there are these feelings or these ethereal kind of virtue that we might call love. And I don’t think that’s totally wrong in the sense of just, love is out there so to speak, but love has an object and you must love something else or someone else. So the question then, the theological conundrum arises. How can God be love if there was a time when only God was? Right. Because if love must have an object and there was a time, if you can call it that, before time was created. Because God has always existed, how can God be love if there’s no object of love? Well, the answer is really in the doctrine of the Trinity, that God and his Trinitarian self. The idea of the Trinity actually explains how God can be love in his very self, because there are three persons who exist as one God, co-eternally, simultaneously.

Jared Wilson:

And so the father enjoying love for the son and for the spirit. And the son enjoying love for the father and the spirit and so on and so forth. The love that they enjoy together, that’s how God himself is love. And the beauty of the good news then is that God didn’t create us because he didn’t feel love, he needed someone to love him, that sort of thing. God doesn’t need anything, but he created us essentially almost as an overflow. He created man and woman in his image to know his love. And so that his love would kind of spill outside the bounds, even of his Trinitarian self that we would get to, as Peter says, become partakers of the divine nature and be sort of brought into that life, into that Trinitarian life, into the life of real divine love.

Jake Lowell:

Yeah. And that’s such a beautiful picture too, of who God is. Because I think,

Jared Wilson:

Yes.

Jake Lowell:

There’s a lot, especially like I hear from young adults a lot too, who maybe are just facing like, well, if I become a Christian, I can’t do this or I can’t do this. So God kind of becomes this grand rule master and that’s all there is.

Jared Wilson:

That’s right. Yeah.

Jake Lowell:

But this idea that God created us and wants to spill out his love for us through that. And I think that’s important, especially in this moment. So like I said before, I lead a community group and engage a lot with young adults. I work with homeless youth and young adults here. And it just seems though, like right now, loneliness, depression insecurity, especially when it comes to social media is just rampant in our culture. What encouragement would you have for those people who are listening right now who are feeling unlovable?

Jared Wilson:

Yeah. Well, stepping back just for a second, the loneliness thing you mentioned is really a pan generational, I think. Certainly, the younger generation I think is struggling with that. Despite the fact that in a way we’re more connected than we’ve ever been. You mentioned social media. We have the rise of this global connection that we now have where the world has gotten much smaller, right, metaphorically and yet we feel more isolated and lonely perhaps than we ever have. But also there’s been numerous articles written and there’s research being conducted on older generations, particularly like middle aged men. I remember reading an article last year, middle aged men where loneliness, they said has become one of the leading causes of death. Whether out of the angst of that, people adopting unhealthy habits or depression and sadly, suicide that comes out of the storm of depression and that sort of thing.

Jared Wilson:

But it’s a killer across the board. The sense of loneliness. Deep down we know in our insights insides that we weren’t meant to be alone, that we were meant to exist in community and not just in a society. Because most of us, unless you’re a hermit, you live in a society of some kind. You have some role to play and you may be in the bottom of that society, you may be at the top. But what we see is that loneliness is not a respecter of social class or social standing. So that’s what I would say. First of all, you’re actually not alone in the feeling. The answer for anyone, homeless or wealthy or whatever it is, the answer to this deepest ache of our heart to be totally known and to be totally loved, that somebody would see us as we are, see our deepest thoughts, our darkest thoughts, see our sin, see our sad state and still love us.

Jared Wilson:

I mean, it’s the premise of the book, that they would love us anyway, regardless. That could only come from God. And I would just share from my own experience, I went through a very significant depressive season. I talk about this in the book as well, suicidal thoughts. My marriage was devastated and I felt, not just that I feel, I was totally alone. I had no life giving relational connections in life at that time. And I just wanted to check out, I wanted the feeling to be over. I didn’t want to experience what I was experiencing anymore. And I had a sliver of faith that I was using to kind of beg God to do something, I didn’t even know what. And the reminder came, not in anything new that I had never heard before, but the reminder came in the good news, this message of the gospel, that God loves sinners so much, that he would send his son to die for them and rise again for them.

Jared Wilson:

That message, which I had heard since I was a kid, suddenly had a new, more powerful resonance for me at my lowest moment. When I was down in the pit, I heard the gospel in a completely different way. So when you’re at the end of your rope and you discover that maybe you feel like everybody else has left you and you don’t know how you’re going to go on. And you discover that the God of the universe who is perfect and holy and completely other than us, that he comes near, that even if everyone else has abandoned you, he doesn’t.

Jared Wilson:

The only person who would be justified in abandoning us because he is holy and we are not. The one person who would have all the right in the world to abandon us and leave us unloved does not leave us unloved. That he comes near to us. And so the image that I would just sort of put out to anyone who feels that way, or senses that they are unloved, is to look at the cross because the cross of Jesus is the ultimate proof that God actually loves sinners. He doesn’t just talk a big game about being love, but he paid the highest price you could. He sent his own son to die. That’s how much he loves sinners.

Jake Lowell:

That’s such a beautiful and encouraging message. And I think it gets back to like who we are as people as well and talking about the Trinity and being made in the image of a relational God.

Jared Wilson:

Yeah.

Jake Lowell:

We’re all made for relationships with people. And with that, I’m really encouraged, not just my own sake, because I need to read this book for my own sake and my own feelings. But it almost feels in the way too, of maybe not a direct evangelical tool or teaching, but speaking to us and knowing that this is a general feeling that everybody has,

Jared Wilson:

Yes.

Jake Lowell:

Which may not be the general feeling everybody goes like, oh, I feel like I really need to go to church. Or I feel like I really need to do this, but everybody, especially in this moment,

Jared Wilson:

Yeah.

Jake Lowell:

Where we’re pulled out from people and things we usually do in relationships, that ache in people’s heart that I think, this could be a really cool moment for people to go, Hey, I would love to speak to you about that. And about this type of love that’s not going to get pulled away or you’re not,

Jared Wilson:

That’s right.

Jake Lowell:

Quarantined from or whatever it may look like.

Jared Wilson:

Yeah. If I wrote sort of a alternate version of the book, right? So I chose first Corinthians 13 as kind of the framework for it, but I could’ve chosen Romans chapter eight, which I think is the best chapter in the whole Bible. And the book ends of that chapter. The very beginning addresses this sense of alienation, of condemnation. I mean, we swim in just a climate, in an ocean of little condemnations every day, even if they’re not expressed that way. I see, oh, I’ve got to look a certain way, be a certain way, have certain stuff, experience certain things if I want to be fulfilled. And therefore I feel condemned if I can’t look that way, despite my best efforts, if I can’t feel that way or have those things that everybody says I got to have, all those sorts of things.

Jared Wilson:

And Roman’s eight begins with, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Well, that’s great. And then the whole chapter’s wonderful. But then the end of the chapter, then says, there is nothing that can separate you from the love of God, not height, nor depth, nor angels, nor demons, nor rulers, nor anything in all creation can separate you from the love of God. And if we could just bottle that up and share that, get that out, that your circumstances don’t determine how loved you are. Even the people around you don’t impact ultimately God’s disposition towards you.

Jared Wilson:

There’s not a day when you’re in Christ, there’s not a day that you get up and the Lord is withholding something from you to see how you’re going to do that day. Your performance, your production, how religious you can be, none of that. And then at the end of the day, no matter how the day’s gone and you might have blown it, it might have been the worst day of your life or the latest in a succession of the worst days of your life. When you lay your head on the pillow at night, you can know that there is nothing that will diminish his love for you. It’s just, it’s the most transformative message. If we can just believe it, it’s the most transformative message that there is.

Jake Lowell:

Yeah. And that’s why it changes lives, I guess that’s why it brings people in. So as we wrap up here, maybe for people who, I hope a lot of people get this book and read it and they’ll get that message from it, but maybe for people who will only hear it from here or need some help, what would you say if there is something just like a, just a little piece of what you think that message is, and it’s sort of wholeness that people can take with them or find hope from? I guess, whether they’re listening in a Christian or a non-Christian and hope for them too, what would that’s sort of one message be?

Jared Wilson:

Yeah. Well, I would want to first say that it’s not a book about marriage or romantic relationships. I think sometimes when we think love or love being relationships, we think that. The book does talk about those things. Because obviously those are very common and important facets of relational love. But I have a chapter on friendship. I have a chapter on the importance of the church community, of a Christian community, being one that is a climate of love or an atmosphere of love. And what that would look like, contrasted with a lot of people’s experience of church, which can be a very judgemental experience or very condemnatory kind of environment. What a church that is loving ought to look like.

Jared Wilson:

But my main takeaway would be this feeling that you have, this desire, this longing that you have to be totally known, as I said, and to be totally loved at the same time, to be loved anyway, that somebody could see the mess that you are and love you anyway, that’s a real message and it comes from a real God. And his love is real. And that’s the purpose of the book, that people would somehow experience and encounter that true love.

Jake Lowell:

Wow. That’s incredible. And again, I’m really excited for it. With that too, is this book out? When does it come out? Where can people sort of reach you, find out what you’re doing, all that sort of stuff?

Jared Wilson:

Yeah. The book’s available now. I don’t know when this will air, but the day that we’re recording this is the book’s official release date. So whenever somebody hears it, the book will be out. You can get it wherever good books are sold.

Jake Lowell:

Great. Awesome. Yeah. And anywhere people can sort of reach you or find out what you’re doing, if you’re writing new stuff or anything like that.

Jared Wilson:

Yeah. So you can go to jaredcwilson.com. That’s my website that has links to all my books and my speaking engagements and biography and all those sorts of things.

Jake Lowell:

Awesome. Well, thanks so much, Jared. We really appreciate your time. It’s been a blessing for me, for sure.

Jared Wilson:

Yeah. Jake, thanks so much brother. Appreciate being on here.

Jake Lowell:

Awesome. Well, thanks joining us today. Thanks again to Jared. And remember if you want to hear from indoubt or listen to any of our past conversations, subscribe to iTunes or Spotify. We’re also on social media. So you can make sure to follow us on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. Thanks.

Speaker 1:

Thanks so much for listening. If you want to hear more subscribe on iTunes or Spotify or visit us online at, indoubt.ca or indoubt.com. We’re also on social media. So make sure to follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Jarad Wilson
Jarad WilsonAssistant Professor of Pastoral Ministry
Jared C. Wilson is Assistant Professor of Pastoral Ministry and Author in Residence at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, General Editor of For The Church (and host of the FTC Podcast), and Director of The Pastoral Training Center at Liberty Baptist Church in Kansas City, MO. He also co-hosts The Art of Pastoring Podcast published by Christianity Today.

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