Picture a sitcom, Girl: “Do you really love me?” Boy: “Of course I do.”Girl: “Name one thing that you love about me.” Boy, standing there with this mouth open: “uh...uh”. We know he has been found out and doesn’t love her. So let’s give him another chance: Girl: “Name one thing that you love about me.” Boy: “You’re inteligence, I always wanted date an honor student.” Girl, bursting into tears: “I was lying about having to stay late for honor society meetings, I just had detention.” It seems he might not really love her here either.
I was reading this post:love as endurance part 2, and this line struck me “love is conditional. My parents loved the child they believed I was and should be.” and thought, yes and it should be. It’s a wonderful thing that my parents didn’t treat me just the same no matter what I did. They wanted me to learn and grow and work hard at being as good as I could. It was because they didn’t view me unconditionally, because my meeting of conditions did matter to them that they wanted what was best for me.In our society unconditional love is held up as the best kind of love, maybe the only love that really counts. But this extreme can put love in a sort of catch 22. If love is not based on some aspect or attribute, some description or perception, some essence or element, how can it actually be related to the beloved at all? It is just some warm feeling of the person who loves and the beloved object is totally superfluous to it. But if the love is somehow actually related to something we are then the love is in that sense conditional. It can’t remain constant unless the essence or aspect it is tied to remains constant. If we want to be loved for our self but then our self must have enough definite content not to be confused with any other self out there.
A month or so ago I was challenged by a friend to to tell him where in the Bible it tells us that Jesus loves him. And I had to pause and think about it for a minute. The first thing that popped into my mind was “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love.” (This was not actually an accurate quote - I was thinking John 15 but it is John 14:21 that says something like this.) But I knew that wouldn’t satisfy my friend, he wanted an assurance of unconditional love. I can think of passages where Jesus tells us to love even our enemies, and offered himself as an example of what he means, dying of us while we were yet opposed to him and offering forgiveness to everyone who repents.
But the modern demand for unconditional love goes beyond this. It expects that no forgiveness or repentance should be necessary. We want to be told not only that we can come as we are but that we can stay as we are, We don’t want our decisions wiped away, we want them affirmed. Of course if no forgiveness is needed what is the point of Christ’s sacrifice, if our choice can rightly be affirmed as is then there is nothing special about God affirming them. We are deluded into thinking that would be the greatest love when it would be nothing but indifference. We need make sure chasing a false image of an “unconditional” love doesn’t take us away from accepting a greater love that is conditional on our willingness for Him to perfect us.