Christian Living

Spiritual Life

Loving Others Unconditionally

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Few people ever experience truly unconditional love and acceptance. Yet, God wired us for these, and He mediates His steadfast love through His people.

Unconditional love is, indeed, a great gift we can give our friends, spouses, children, grandchildren, and anyone we meet. How do we give it? Let me propose a few ways.

  1. Find your own source of identity and security in Christ, not in others or their approval. The amazing thing is that the more you love Jesus, the greater your capacity will be to love others. But if you love others more than you love Christ, then you’ll love them less than if you love Jesus more than them. When we love others out of the overflow of Christ in us, then we will love and serve them freely rather than using them in a quest to meet our own needs. We’ll be able, through His power, to love even when our love is not reciprocated.
  2. Remember people are eternal beings. When we talk to and deal with others, we’re dealing with embodied souls—people for whom Christ died. We’re asked to give them better than they deserve, because we have received better than we deserved, by God’s grace. C.S. Lewis said it best: “. . . the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities . . . that we should conduct all our dealings with one another . . . . There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.”[1] Paul makes a similar point in 2 Corinthians 5:16 when he urges us to “regard no one from a worldly point of view,” but out of the view that Christ died for that person (5:15).
  3. Speak your love. When Jesus was baptized, a voice from heaven said, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased” (Luke 3:22). Although this was a unique moment in the life of the Messiah, we can echo this type of acceptance of another person by uttering similar words. For instance, I can look my grandson in the eyes and give him a word of blessing, such as “You are Kenny, and you are my beloved grandson, and I am pleased with you.” When doing this, it’s important not to attach your pleasure to performance. There’s nothing wrong with expressing pride in someone’s accomplishments, but if people, especially children, only hear our love when they do something to impress us, then they may come to sense that our love is conditioned upon their achievements.

The Father’s love for us is not conditioned on our performance. He demonstrated that by dying for us “while we were yet sinners” (Romans 5:8). If we had to do something to earn His love, we would all be without hope, because we’d never measure up. But He does love us unconditionally, so much so that He sacrificed His own Son on our behalf, thereby paying the debt we couldn’t pay for our sin, and making a way for us to live forever with Him. Moreover, He pours out His love in our hearts so we can now love one another (1 John 4:11, 19). Our vertical relationship with God spills over into our horizontal relationships, making us vessels of Christ’s love in the world.

[1] Lewis, “The Weight of Glory,” in The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses, Walter Hooper ed. (New York: Touchstone, 1996), 39.

Copyright © 2018 Ken Boa, used with permission.

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