Identity Issues: Why the Quest To Earn God’s Love Is Turning the Church Into Harry Potter’s “Hogwarts”

Identity Issues: Why the Quest To Earn God’s Love Is Turning the Church Into Harry Potter’s “Hogwarts”


One of the great challenges facing the church today is the vast number of Christians who love Jesus…but aren’t so sure He loves them back.

Yes,  theologically and “biblicaly” most Christians understand God loves them; but their thoughts and actions often betray a strong feeling of insecurity.

It’s that insecurity that wrecks havoc on themselves, those around them, and Christianity’s witness to the world.

See, people that love God but are not always certain God loves them back feel compelled to do “stuff” to prove to God how much they love him.  They feel the need to engage in religious activities they can point to and demonstrate to God and others that they somehow deserve His love.

People that “love God” will often focus time and energy on:

* Church service attendance

* Bible Study

* Prayer meetings

* Daily devotions

These can be good things but if you aren’t sure God loves you, they become the little hooks we can hang the love we feel we deserve on.

When we sub-consciously feel we need to earn God’s:

* favor

* protection

* presence

* blessing

we will live in a crazy double-minded world of guilt, shame, and fear.  In our passion to “get close to God” (forgetting he promised to never leave us)  we’ll start to seek out anything that will give us a “leg up” in God’s hierarchy of affection.

* Hundred fold returns

* Double portion annointings

* Hedges of Protection

* Spiritual Coverings

If you will just do this, then God will do that!

It’s not love…it’s not relationship…

…its magic!

It’s interesting that many Christians shun the Harry Potter series when the affect of Christians not knowing God’s unconditional love for them has resulted in transforming much the church into an imitation of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  

John: The Disciple Jesus Loved

Anyone who reads the New Testament regularly knows that when the Apostle John writes about Jesus, it’s different.  Biblical scholars separate John’s gospel from the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) because the narrative John uses is so distinct.

The narrative is all about God’s love!

When John describes himself in scripture he refers to himself simply as “the disciple whom Jesus loved”.  His primary identification didn’t come from his love and devotion to Jesus but from understanding that any love he had for Jesus was dwarfed in contrast to knowing that Jesus loved him!


The reality of that love shaped and formed him to the point where that became his name.

Steve: “Hi, I’m Steve, and you are?”

John: “Me? Oh, I’m the disciple Jesus loves?”

Steve: “Yes, that’s nice! But what is your name?

John: “That is my name.  I’m “the disciple Jesus loves.

Steve: “But that doesn’t tell me who you are?”

John: “Oh, but it does!  You really want to know who I am? You really want to know me? I’m a guy who  struggles to love people each and everyday.  I’m a guy who says stupid things at the wrong times.  I’m a guy with a coarse  mouth and coarse gestures.  I’m a guy who can make bad decisions and lousy choices.  I’m a guy who can be a real jerk to those closest to me.  Despite all of this, I’m the disciple Jesus loves!  That tells you exactly who I am!

Identity Issues

What is your identity?  Is it an identity that is rooted in you loving God?

Or is it rooted in the certainty that God loves you?

If your identity stems from “you loving God” I would say you are on a never ending treadmill of performance. Some days you will feel “close to God” especially if you feel you’ve been diligent in worship, Bible study, prayer, church attendance etc.  You’ve done what you needed to do to the level that you feel is necessary and then you get the payoff…a feeling of being in “right relationship with God”!

But if you miss some of those things (and as humans we always do) you begin to feel “distance from God” and the accompanying guilt that comes with it.

John’s identity rested in the security that nothing he had did or would do could separate him from Christ’s love (Rom. 8:35).

That identity molded him…shaped him…that transformed him from a man wanting to call down fire from heaven on the crowd that didn’t welcome Jesus (Luke 9:51) to a disciple who is remembered for his love!

Loving Jesus can be nice…can be frustrating…can be unpredictable!

Knowing Jesus loves you?  That will change you to the very core of your being and will change your name and identity to “a disciple Jesus loves”!



  • Wow and double wow!! I’ve just read the article aloud with a friend and we both are stunned now to consider John in this way you have presented. We are all the disciples Jesus loves. Thank you.

    • Steve

      Thanks for such an encouraging comment! So glad the post touched you that way.

  • Michelle Collins

    Beautiful! I have often written of the identity comparison of Peter and John. Peter was so brass and bold in his declaration of never leaving Jesus yet we know how that ended, in denial. John’s simple declaration is one that I am trying so hard to match.

    The effects of religion run deep and even as God has shown me his grace and the world that opens up, I find I still fall back on the old thinking of separation and doubt. Thank you for the reminder that regardless of who we are, we are the children that God loves!!

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