Before really knowing Jesus and even before becoming a parent, I didn’t really understand unconditional love. So often, the love I experienced in life up to that point seemed quite conditional…even if I was the one adding the conditions. I thought love was earned or retained based on performance. I thought wit, smarts and abilities scored additional points. I made sport out of gathering up love in all it’s damaging forms. Even love in marriage had it’s breaking point, right? If not, then why did we almost divorce like most of our friends and family? There’s a point at which the love just runs out.
Then I met our son. I had never felt anything like that before. I didn’t know that kind of attachment existed. It was more than beautiful, it was painful, but in a good way. It was the kind of love that would endure even if he poked my eyes out with a stick. No action or inaction mattered. All that existed was love between us and nothing could break that bond.
It took another four years before I began to understand that it was not only possible to give that kind of love to someone who grew inside me but that the God of the universe loved me in the same way. His love for each of us is totally unconditional. There’s nothing we can do to earn it or be worthy of it. We just have to accept it as it is…a free gift waiting for each of us to take hold.
Just take a minute and think about what it means to receive unconditional love.
No strings attached. No if-then. Just love. Just honest, warm, forgiving love. You can’t screw up too much. You can never be too small, too fat, too stinky, too mouthy or too shy. You’re never not enough but just totally lovable as you are, right now and everyday going forward.
That is the kind of love God promises us. John 3:16 – For God so loved the world, that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Seriously, sit in that for a minute. God so loved the WORLD. The world is a big place by our human standards. There are 7 billion human beings roaming the planet right now. We all look different. We all have unique characteristics, thoughts, passions and interests. But God created each of us and knows each of us intimately – For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. Psalm 139:13
We are not an accident. Not a one of us. And he has plans for each of us. He even tells us so – “For I know the plans I have for you” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11 That is a pretty sweet promise. He knows you. He knows me. He wants me around. He even calls us Beloved.
With a promise of this kind of love, so intense, so personal so absolute, we should be filled to overflowing. Jesus says in the book of John, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35 But as much as he loves us and commands us to love, we don’t. We screw it up. We add our own conditions to the love we dole out.
Consider for a moment that Jesus may not have looked just like you. The details of Jesus’ physical appearance are pretty slim in the Bible except for Isaiah 53:2, “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” We don’t even know for sure the shade of his skin color. His beauty was never external. So why do we constantly look to the external in others when deciding on love. Those who look like us, think like us, read the same books, follow the same blogs, eat at the same restaurants, listen to the same music…they’re easy to love.
But then there are others who just make it hard right? (FYI…these are NOT my actual feelings but I’ve unfortunately heard them said in my lifetime)
I will love the girl who’s pregnant that wants to give her baby up for adoption but to hell with the girl who just had an abortion.
I will love the cute little blond boy at my kid’s bus stop but that black family should stay in the car. They’ll probably get a full ride to college on a sports scholarship anyway.
That hispanic family has very nice children but we won’t have them over for dinner because they don’t speak very good English and it would be hard. Besides, they’re in America, they need to speak OUR language.
I know that people need a hand up sometimes but look at that welfare family buying filet minion with MY tax dollars. Oh, and of course, there’s beer and cigarettes in their cart too. They’ve got plenty of money for THAT.
I see this mom at the store all the time. Poor thing looks exhausted with all those kids but they each look so different from each other. I wonder if they even know their daddies?
I’m happy to donate money and food to our church food pantry but I always cross the street when the homeless guy is on the corner. He freaks me out.
I work with a gay guy who is actually very nice. It just such a bummer that he’s gay.
Look at the conditions we put on love. By the grace of God, he doesn’t to that to us. But what if he did? Wouldn’t it be funny if Jesus said, “Oh, you’re going to read my Father’s words? Well, you better read them in HIS language.” What is that exactly? Would it be Hebrew? Or Greek? Or Aramaic? News flash people…the King James Version is not how it originally went down.
We want to sanitize every situation to fit our taste and our preferences. It’s easy to keep God in a box like a pet that we take out on Sunday morning and the occasional Bible study. But then we can tuck him back in, every so precious, and go about our day being judgmental and un-Christlike. As followers of Jesus, wouldn’t it be better if we left the judgement to God and followed the commandments of Christ?
And before we go there, let’s just take the phrase “well, I’m only human” off the table. No cop outs allowed. We’re talking about building God’s Kingdom here. If our God is real, then let’s live like that’s true. And if our God is real, we’ve got some forgiveness to seek, mercy to give and humility to learn.
We have the power of the Holy Spirit working through us when we choose to acknowledge Him. But so often tapping into the power of the Holy Spirit means that we need to live differently. We need to love differently. I’m NOT talking about acting as if we’re God’s line-backers. He was in this game long before we came along and He isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Eternity is pretty long time. But our time on earth is a blip on the radar. So why not do all we can to follow Jesus’ instructions while on earth? He made it so simple for us but we make it so hard…Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind; and love your neighbor as yourself.
Let’s get in the game. What if our love for each other changed the world? I think it’s the only thing that ever has. I’ll pray for you and you pray for me, okay??