Unconditional love really exists in each of us. It is part of our deep inner being. It is not so much an active emotion as a state of being. It’s not ‘I love you’ for this or that reason, not ‘I love you if you love me.’ It’s love for no reason, love without an object.” – Ram Dass
For those old enough to remember the summer of 1967, you may recall the monumental telecast called Our World. It was the first ever live global television link. Over 400 million people in 25 countries watched the program which was broadcast live via satellite on the 25th of June. The British pop superstars known collectively as The Beatles were asked to write a song for this historical event. The result was titled, “All you need is Love”. The song had a very simple (if not repetitive) message; love is all you need. To put it another way; there is nothing you cannot do if you do it in love.
During that same summer of 1967, the hippie counterculture movement reached an apex in the United States as an estimated 100,000 people converged upon a neighborhood in San Francisco known as Haight-Ashbury. This human fondue of rock music, psychedelic drugs, unbridled creativity and uninhibited sexual and social behaviors put on an unforgettable spectacle. It had a profound effect on western societies worldwide as people began to question just about everything once defined as normal. Today, historians often refer to this societal phenomenon as the Summer of Love, and it is still considered a defining moment of the 1960s.
I think it’s safe to say that love has always been a pervasive topic among the human species. It is celebrated in the arts and entertainment, used as a social hammer and anvil and dragged through the mud of human insincerity ad nauseam. And yet, in all my life, I have never met anyone who really understood (let alone practiced) true unconditional love.
Can we talk?
Confession time: I’m really good at covetousness, lust and greed – love’s counterfeits. Occasionally, I have stumbled into a genuine expression of unadulterated love, and of course I expected a congressional medal of honor for such selfless acts. One thing I have learned about unconditional love; you will know it when you see it – it’s that rare.
You doubt me. Okay, let me ask you a question, how do you react when someone lets you down or fails to live up to your expectations? Thought so. Wish I had a dime for every time I have heard someone say, “If he/she really loved me…” This phrase is usually followed by a “condition”. Why not just say, “When you do and say what makes me happy, that will prove that you love me and then I will love you back.” Here’s the problem, I can’t seem to find that definition of love anywhere in the scriptures. What I do find is just the opposite. The Bible teaches us to take no account for how we are treated but instead to treat others the way you would like them to treat us. (Luke 6:31) In fact, Jesus put it this way,
43-47 “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best” the sun to warm and the rain to nourish” to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. 48 In a word, what I’m saying is, grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.” (Matthew 5:43-48 – The Message)
Listen, there is no excuse for those who are abusive, callous, cruel, or unfaithful in relationships. Sometimes we must be confrontational for the sake of correction. But we should avoid abusive, callous or cruel language to “correct” an abusive, callous, or cruel person. That’s hypocrisy.
I converted to Christianity because I was convinced by Jesus Christ as a character, as a personality. I loved him, his wisdom, his love, his unconditional love.” – Mosab Hassan Yousef
Here is how the Newer Testament writer Paul defines real love,
4 “Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, 5 never haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong. 6 It is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out. 7 If you love someone, you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him. 8 All the special gifts and powers from God will someday come to an end, but love goes on forever.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
Incredible (and embarrassing). Let’s bullet point that list of love’s characteristics. Love is:
- Never jealous or envious
- Never boastful or proud
- Never arrogant or selfish
- Not demanding
- Not irritable or touchy
- It does not hold a grudge
- Doesn’t keep records of peoples mistakes
- Hates injustice
- Rejoices in the truth
Does that sound like you? Me neither. But wait, there is more. Paul said, if you love someone, you will be loyal to them no matter what the cost. You will always believe in them, always expect the best of them, and always stand your ground in defending them.
Sure, it sounds a bit idealistic. Who could possibly love like that? We can. But not without great effort. This ideal love may seem beyond your grasp, but no one will fault you for trying to attain it. Remember, everything in this life has an expiration date – except love. Love is eternal, and love never fails!
Unconditional love is dangerous. It leaves you vulnerable. That’s why some people avoid it altogether. They like to play it safe. C.S. Lewis wrote,
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, and irredeemable. To love is to be made vulnerable.” – C.S. Lewis
The Liberator Jesus once said,
9-15 “I have loved you just as the Father has loved me. You must go on living in my love. If you keep my commandments you will live in my love just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and live in his love. I have told you this so that you can share my joy, and that your happiness may be complete. This is my commandment: that you love each other as I have loved you. There is no greater love than this” that a man should lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I tell you to do. I shall not call you servants any longer, for a servant does not share his master’s confidence. No, I call you friends, now, because I have told you everything that I have heard from the Father.” (John 15:13-15 – Phillips)
I almost can’t believe that the Creator of all things, The Almighty, has called me His friend. I’m flabbergasted really (knowing that I am so unworthy of this privilege). All He asks of our friendship is obedience to His truth and that I learn how to love like He does. That is a pretty tall order. I’m sure to stumble and fall on occasion. It’s okay, He will pick me up, set me straight, and I will try again. That is what unconditional love does.
Today, the Divine Spirit of the Almighty invites us to love with wild abandon. Are you up for the challenge? Then let’s get started right away. All you need is love… Love is all you need…
Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, a popular Bible teacher and a rabbid Coastal Junkie ®
For additional information write to: Coastal Life Ministries, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656