Love Is Patient, Love is Kind, but is it truly “Unconditional”? Is God’s love unconditional in the sense that nothing we can do will affect our salvation? Many Christians are taught and believe this, but is it true? What about our relationships with others? Are we supposed to show unconditional love and forgiveness to everyone, no matter what?
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
Yes, scripture and tradition teach us that God does indeed love us unconditionally in that he loves us even in the midst of our sins. But he cannot love our sins. He cannot love evil. He will always forgive us if we repent. For our part, to love him back, we must be free to choose to love him or not. Love cannot be programmed or forced. To love him is the greatest thing we can do for ourselves. But we can choose to not love him. Our choice to not love him does not diminish his unconditional love. But it certainly diminishes ours! When we choose to sin, we run the risk of removing ourselves from our state of grace.
Throughout scriptures, both New and Old Testaments we find that God puts requirements in place, stating the expectations, or requirements for us to be in relationship with him. We each must choose to accept or reject those requirements. Yes, there are indeed things we MUST DO, to be in relationship with God. This is the essence of Covenantal Theology, it is a contract between God and those who choose to follow Him.
Some folks take that concept of unconditional love and believe that virtually everyone will be saved, and that we have a “reasonable hope that hell will be empty.” For those folks, you don’t even need to have faith in Jesus. In that theological construct, it doesn’t matter if you’re Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, or pantheistic. In this ideology, sin doesn’t matter, and neither does evangelism. The command of Jesus to go out unto all the world, teaching the Good News, becomes needless. If it doesn’t matter to God what we believe, or how we live our lives, then, the teachings found in our Holy Scripture and Tradition becomes feckless at best.
So, why is it, do you imagine that there are so many places in the New Testament warning us (Believers) about the dangers of sin, if sin really is inconsequential to the lives of Christians? These verses and passages were written to, and for US, both individual Christians and the corporate body of Christ, the Church. These things were written so that we would understand that Sin, in a very real sense has the potential of separating us from being in the eternal presence of God.
My friends, Salvation is not now, and has never been a license to sin. The requirements before us are that we MUST in a sense work on our own salvation (Philippians 2:12) by learning to “Do The Will of the Father.” As we read in 1 John 2: “We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.”
God’s love for us is indeed patient, kind, and long suffering. It is our own prideful egos that keep us both in our sins, preventing us from repentance — thus separating us from God — the key to the Christian life, that those outside of the Body of Christ simply don’t understand, is CONTRITION. When you sin, and we all do, do you feel any remorse? Do you understand that your actions are contrary to God’s will for your life, and seek forgiveness?
Let me beat this tired pony some more, simply because it’s that important, SIN, All SIN, not just the sins advocated by a certain “Bridge Builder,*” puts us at odds with God, preventing us from inheriting eternity in God’s presence. The Apostle Paul says it pretty succinctly: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11) Because you were “washed” by the blood of Christ in baptism, it is imperative that we avoid the grime and stains of sin.
As part of our covenant relationship with God, we are expected to focus on “Doing the Will of the Father.” We are expected to become that “New Creation” in Christ, Jesus. Yes, the operative phraseology revolves around Grace and Faith, but that same faith, MUST lead us to a contrite heart, a denial of self, to the cleansing waters of Baptism.
My friends, the Christian life is 180 degrees from what the world considers normal these days. Unfortunately that is becoming true among modern, liberal churches as well. No, nothing will separate us from God’s love. The Father loved us so much, that from the very beginning of time, He had a plan to reconcile his fallen children unto himself. That plan found its culmination in the salvific works of Jesus, the Messiah. Though He (Jesus) died for ALL, we must seek Him in Spirit and Truth to appropriate that free gift. However, like that story of the “Rich Young Ruler,” the price of becoming a Child of God, or a Christian can be quite high. What price is too high for you to pay? For many in our society today there is indeed a bridge that they cannot cross, that subject often revolves around human sexuality. In their pride and self serving wisdom, modern Churches are denying that scriptures relating to sexual sin are relevant in our day. However, we have never found any evidence suggesting that God’s moral requirements were either temporary or for a particular time frame. Neither are we told that they are not applicable if you have a particular sexual orientation. God’s moral instructions are both imperative and unchanging.
So, what’s the deal? Why this subject today? Clearly, if you’ve been following my writings for any time at all, you already understand that I teach that Christians MUST avoid sin, and that chastity cannot be considered optional in our lives of faith — no matter your “sexual orientation.” The idea of God’s Unconditional Love in our age is actually being skewed and grossly misunderstood. Not only are folks confused regarding how God’s love relates to sin, they are also making unwarranted comparisons to how we should manage our interpersonal relationships.
Love must indeed be patient, kind, and even long suffering — unconditional. But are we, as Christians required to forgive unconditionally? Yes, we are to “love God,” and we’re also to love our “neighbors as ourselves,” but are we supposed to forgive “those who trespass against us” differently than God does? As our Lord forgives, so should we. Our Father in heaven is always willing to forgive our trespasses (sins). And, yes, we too must be willing to forgive others in the same manner — seventy times seven. (Matthew 18:21-22) God’s forgiveness requires our repentance, contrition, and asking Him to pardon us for our trespasses. Does God require us to be more gracious than he is? I appreciate what Luke has to say about this subject; “Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” We don’t find anywhere in scripture where we’re told that there is forgiveness without repentance. John tells us in his first epistle, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” That is the model that we too are expected to follow in regards to forgiving others. With that stated, we must always treat everyone, even those who trespass against us, with love and compassion. We must also seek understanding as to whether or not we ourselves are somehow culpable, needing to seek forgiveness ourselves. Quite often the disagreements, arguments, and strife we have with others are aggravated by our own pride and self-certitude. Can we, ourselves somehow be at fault in a given disagreement? Can our own pride keep us from seeking to be forgiven as well?
Why is it today that so many are so easily triggered and offended by the littlest things. Why is it that the term “micro aggressions” has so much weight in our day? We’ve become a prideful people, even among many claiming to be Christian. What we’ve become is a people who have lost their ability to truly love one another. For many, even in the church, this equates a failure to do the will of the Father in their lives. My brothers and sisters, we need to return to the Lord, putting aside our pride, and love even those who abuse our loving efforts. Become transformed by the renewing of your mind, rather than being conformed to the wisdom of this age.
Our nation has become so easily aggrieved. Not every insult we feel, or every time we feel offended is cause to unfriend someone, or spark vengeful retaliation. As Christians our love must indeed be patient, kind, long suffering, and ready to forgive. This is part and parcel of the Christian life. As Jesus taught in the “Our Father” our ability to be forgiven, is somehow related to our openness to forgiving others. The Choice is yours, you can either conform to what everyone else calls normal, or become transformed by the Loving grace of God.
*Fr. James Martin S.J. In his book “Building Bridges” advocates finding ways for LGBTQ individuals to be included in the sacramental life of the Church without acknowledging, or repenting of their sinful activities.