Today’s devotion builds on the thoughts from Sunday’s Sermon – Week 2 of “Compelled – Living the Value of Unconditional Love” (LISTEN HERE).
Do you think you put conditions on your love for others? Your spouse? Your kids? Your friends? Your brothers and sisters in Christ?
I did not think I did as much as I do. Unfortunately, (or fortunately) this week has exposed a great opportunity to grow in loving as I have been loved in Christ.
In trying to understand what conditional and unconditional love looks like, let us reflect on 1 Corinthians 13.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.
Which of these phrases speak to conditional love (or not loving conditionally)? Perhaps you might say, “All of them” and be correct. I would be interested in you sharing your reflections.
Here are a few that stand out to me.
Love is not proud. Pride inherently focuses on self. Pride elevates our own performance above someone else. Pride often implies a “better than” attitude. As a result, it is hard to show love to individuals that you don’t feel measure up to the standard you have created for yourself. Like the parable Jesus told in Luke 18:9-14 about the Pharisee and the tax collector, you see how his pride a) got in the way of the Pharisee loving the tax collector (he didn’t measure up), and b) got in the way of enjoying God’s unconditional love because he thought he was doing pretty well at earning it.
Love is not rude. Being rude is being impolite. Being rude implies my agenda, my thoughts, my life is more important than the other person. Being rude often puts another person down and makes them feel small or insignificant. Being rude often puts a story in my mind why the other person is acting the way they are and that in some way they deserve my rudeness instead of love and understanding. Being rude is just not being kind to the person with whom you are interacting…probably because you have determined they haven’t lived up to the silent standard they need to have for you to show love. Being rude is a by-product of conditional love.
Love keeps no record of wrongs. This one jumps off the page at me. Past hurts prevent us from showing present love. To be sure, there may be consequences of past actions that limit one’s interaction with another (Another topic to explore the interplay of unconditional love and perfect justice…for another time). Have you ever kept a silent record of wrongs and then felt justified to not be loving to someone? Unfortunately, I have seen this in the church (and at times been guilty of it myself). Church people can just leave, obvious they are upset at someone or something, but never tell you or try to address the situation. They justify their actions assuming that every Christian in the church should be perfect to them and the standards they have set in their own mind. When those standards are broken, people around them don’t deserve their love…or their presence. To this day, there are people who have left the church because someone “hurt” them, but that someone, even me as a pastor, may never know. Love addresses the wrongs; it does not keep secret records.
Love always perseveres. Love is tough. Loving unconditionally is almost impossible…without the love of Christ at work in us. Love must persevere with a close connection to Jesus Christ and his unconditional love for us. In the 33 years Jesus lived and ministered to the world on the world, he did not give up his plan to save the world motivated by love. From my perspective, there were many times Jesus could have given up, left the earth, and left people to suffer an eternity apart from him. Yet his love for the world led him to persevere through life to the cross and out of the tomb. I am glad he did.
Love is not easy (That is not in the verses, but maybe it should be!). Unconditional love is a daily challenge because we love to put conditions on the love we show to others.
The solution for our conditional love is always the unconditional love we have been given in Christ.
Apply: Which phrase in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 resonates with you and the implications of showing or not showing conditional love.
Prayer: Lord, again thank you for giving me your unconditional love. Empower me to do the same to the people around me. AMEN.