(Photo by Brigitte Tohm on Unsplash)
I recently had a conversation with a person who stated that they didn't believe that another human being could demonstrate unconditional love. To be honest this wasn't an idea that I had given much attention to previously, but it really stuck with me. I wanted to explore what I believed about this. And unfortunately perhaps, I do agree that human beings are not able to live up to full unconditional love.
We are just too... human. Too prone to selfishness. Too weak to make difficult sacrifices at times. Too soft and easily hurt. And too short-sighted to truly be able to make decisions for the good of others ALL the time. Unconditional love is simply a standard that we cannot live up to.
It is a good thing that the story doesn't end there though. As much as we are unable to love unconditionally in its purest form, I believe that we have been created to do so, and through the course of time we can get pretty close. Here is what I believe about unconditional love.
In Mark 12:29-31 Jesus summarised the law and the prophets (which he came to fulfill and not abolish!) in this way: love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbour as yourself.
I used to think that these were burdensome, that God was requiring these things of me. But on further inspection of the whole Bible, I found that this is not the case! Firstly, love doesn't originate with me, but rather with God, who the Bible describes as "love" itself.
1 John 4:19 states that "we love because He first loved us". We have to understand that our love is a response to God's love. Which means that the closer that I draw near to God, the more I accept His love, the more I am able to truly love.
I then found another link in the Bible. In 2 Cor 3:18 we read, "And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." The analogy used here is where through Jesus we are now able to enter God's presence fully. And as we draw closer to God, we are being transformed to be more like Him.
I used to struggle with this thought. Why would God want me to be transformed into His image? This sounded really strange to me until I realised that I have been created in His image in the first place! ALL of us have! God isn't trying to make me something that I'm not. Rather, He is restoring me to be more like how He created me to be. He is helping me be more like me.
I put forward that it is only when I am closer to my original design that I am able to love like God designed me to. Remember that Jesus said that the second command was to love our neighbours LIKE we love ourselves. When we have been in a place of accepting God's love and allowing Him to restore us to our original design, there is a lot to like about ourselves! And out of that place of overflow we are able to love the people around us.
So the question is: how are you letting God love you? How are you accepting His love? If you look at your behaviours and attitudes does it say that you trust God? Does it say that you believe that He is your utmost good in His heart? Or are you holding God at arms length? Unconditional love comes from God and starts with us learning to lean in and trust in Him.