Updated: Sep 30, 2020
When people talk about unconditional love, it is generally with a specific, limited, set of objects in mind. This is neither good nor bad, simply the way people operate. I suppose if you tap into the typically Christian idea of hating the sin while loving the sinner, you might come close to unconditional love. Few people give that idea much credence and it may be just as well since so few are capable of it. I certainly am not.
But, then, I don’t believe unconditional love has been, nor ever can be, fully expressed. By expressed, I mean that unconditional love, must contain all the elements of love...or if you prefer, the fruit of the spirit of love.
Christ enjoined his disciples to love their enemies. That love was to produce a benevolence of thought and action. His statement is exemplified by God sending rain upon the just and the unjust. That is God is good to (loves) everyone. He also made it clear that without repentance, that goodness only extended so far. Unconditional love was an unlocked door, but every person had to open it for himself...and only himself.
Again, God commanded Israel to be kind to the stranger living along side him because a person acting as he wished to be treated would, of necessity, be kind...just as God is. Nowhere in Christ’s discourses is there a provision made for peace with, and acceptance by God, for those who do not meet certain conditions. Two jump out immediately.
The preaching of Christ is summed up by Matthew as, “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand.” The other gospel writers employ similar language. While God so loved the world...unconditional love...admittance to the kingdom was conditional. One had to repent,
Jesus had no use for the unrepentant scribes, lawyers, Pharisees or Sadducees. In fact he told his hearers that unless their righteousness exceeded that of the Pharisee’s they would in no wise enter heaven.
Now, repentance is abhorrent to the natural human...hence, many are called, few are chosen. Repentance is not exactly what many people picture. It is not a church ceremony, a rite, a creed, or an adoption of a code of conduct. It is a change of mind and heart that produces a fellowship with the Spirit of God and a resultant transformation of one’s life and actions that springs from the direction of that same Spirit.
In short, surrender to God is the condition of acceptance. Surrender your life? Sounds terrible doesn’t it? So it is. That is if loving God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself is contrary to what you want to do with your life.
Altruism is the unselfish devotion to the welfare of others. It’s not for everybody. The Christian life, well lived is by its very nature altruistic. What adds to the burden, if you want to call it that, is that others are not, in anyway, required to be worthy of that devotion.
This puts the behavior and attitudes of all those people bumping up against you beyond your dictates. That can be painful when you love them...it was for Christ. His followers can expect no less.
The greatest of “trying times” is when one has lived a life of service only to find no one really cares, or even looked at you like a real person. The only salvation in that is knowing God loves you and God sees.