Stating that love should be “unconditional” sets up a mighty resistance in the person who is told that they must love ‘unconditionally’, the abusive and selfish actions of their spouse (for instance.)
If that were the case, then the scripture that refers to “reaping what we sow” would be conflicting. So what does “unconditional” REALLY mean?
To understand more fully how much God loves us, let’s replace “unconditional” with the word “absolute.” God loves us absolutely. His love is an absolute love. It is set, does not waver, is solid.
No matter what we do – He still loves us. Does that mean we can get away with anything? No, what we sow – we WILL reap. But He still loves us, even in the sowing of unproductive or unloving things. His love is ABSOLUTE (free from restriction or limitation; not limited in any way.)
Unconditional love does not refer to our not reaping what we have sown. It means that we do not have to qualify for His love.
It doesn’t mean that we can get away with anything we want and He “has” to still love us. He already loves us. (It’s unconditional) He loves us so much .. that He gave us free will – and He allows us to choose what we want, when we want it.
His love is deep and wide and all encompassing. Far greater than anything we can understand. So, when we are taught in the church to “love unconditionally”, is that even possible for a human? Is absolute love possible for us to give?
In fact, there are pre-requisites to this love. We must love God first. THEN love others AS WE LOVE OURSELVES.
To truly love another, we must love God (comprehend the depth of His love) and then love ourselves. Then, and only then, can we love another with the same depth of love.
Here’s a thought for you. If you cannot love yourself. You judge yourself with hateful and cruel self talk about what a loser you are, and you see others as losers and you easily pass judgment on them, then you have an idea of the depth of love you are capable of, and have received. That kind of love is man given.
God’s love knows the strengths and weaknesses, the joys, sorrows and anger of each person, and loves us anyway. We do not have to earn it, we do not have to prove ourselves worthy. It is UNconditional, it is ABSOLUTE.
When we receive that, in its fullness, on a consistent basis (some days are easier than others) then we can love others too. We forgive, we extend grace, we enjoy peace. This is humility – and thankfulness.
Love is the heartbeat of all that we do. If we do not love, then we hate. There is no in-between.
Shannon Parish is the Founder of Sarah’s Tent and President of Living Stones Center. She is an award winning cartoonist and graphic recorder who, after more than thirty years of ministry and as a Life Coach utilizes her artistic talent to teach and Illustrate You.