Speaking about love as “conditional” won’t win you a lot of fans. Seeing as you and I are the only ones that read this blog, I’m not too concerned. I realize that if a third person reads this blog, I’ll be psycho-analyzed to the hilt as people ponder why I would write something like this…it must be a “Daddy Wounds” or, at the very least, a jacked up view of Jesus from a pastor who, three years ago, taught English to high schoolers.
Growing up, my parents always told me that they would, “love me no matter what.” I believed them, still do. In retrospect, however, I remember that they “loved” me with that damn wooden spoon a lot (My Dad just used his hand because it was about as thick as a 2X4). I don’t remember feeling the “love” when mom gave me THE LOOK from across the table after “letting one go” at dinner table–don’t pretend like you never did (do?). I remember the regular employ of the “firm voice” , as opposed to her “unconditional love tone” , especially when my room smelled of a small dead woodland creature because I had 10 old cereal bowls laying around and hadn’t changed my sheets in 9 months. And Dad wasn’t genuinely appreciative when I got disciplined by the school for making small darts out of pins, erasers and tape…and throwing them at people. I wish they would have just loved me for who I was? Why did they want me to change…this is the way God made me, smell and all. Sin is a blinding thing isn’t it?
When I got married 15 years ago, the phrase “unconditional love” was fleshed out in our marriage vows as, in summary, loving you as long as you are breathing–sick, rich, unfaithful…whatever. Of course, it takes about 48 hours to realize that oaths are easy to speak, but living them out are difficult. In my 15 amazing years of marriage, I have learned about unconditional love as my bride has seen my sin and not rejected me, and I hers. Before marriage, I thought that unconditional love just happened, more of a feeling that comes with a certificate, like a bonus! Quite honestly, I don’t “feel” in love all the time and I doubt my bride can say she has had warm fuzzies about me every day for the last 15 years. She has seen my dirt, weaknesses, and failures, and I hers. I have hurt her and she has hurt me. And though her love as never failed, she loves me too much to let me remain that way, and I her. So, for the last 15 years, we constantly hope, encourage, pray, and even rebuke one another SO THAT we might pursue Jesus and not run after my sin. She loves me, and I her, unconditionally, so much so, we hopes our conditions change and we look more and more like Jesus.
Not everyone would call that “unconditional love.” They will argue that one should accept the person as they are and not expect them to change–at least not tell them they should–because that is conditional love, that’s just mean. OR, they’ll accept that you’re “trying” to be loving, but that the hope you speak to them aren’t necessarily things to be hoped for.
I have learned much about the “unconditional/conditional” love that I believe Jesus exercises with me, his son, through my own children. I have three kids, two boys and a princess. We hope to have more…like 7 more (My wife won’t read this). It is hard to imagine life before my children, they bring incredible amounts of joy and pain to my life. love my children. I love them though they sin against their Lord. I love them even if they sin against me, their mom, their sister, and others. I love those little sinners unconditionally. BUT, I also love my children so much that I desire for them to run from their sin and pursue Jesus. Yes, ultimately I don’t have decisive control over whether they do this or not, but that does not allow me to abdicate my God-given responsibility to parent my children, to gently (but firmly) speak truth to them, and to discipline them at times actively. I love them unconditionally, I will not ever reject them; but I will ALWAYS participate in their journey sanctification.
Isn’t this how Jesus loves us? Romans 5.8 tells us that Jesus loves us while we are sinners–in other words, he loves us before we are clean. Jesus justifies us by His grace, and changes our position with God. But he doesn’t leave. He continues to work as a mediator to transform our condition using the same grace. According to Titus 2:11 God’s grace trains us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age. Jesus loves us so much, he refuses to leave us in our sin–he trains us and even disciplines us BECAUSE he loves us (Hebrews 21.6). I understand that some will dismiss any kind of ‘love’ like this that comes through a man (or woman) and not the Lord.I believe that this sanctifying work of the Spirit who works through GOD’S WORD IN the unconditionally loving words of our husbands, brides, friends, pastors, even strangers at times, who desperately for a change in condition.