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What a term!
How can you love anyone that way? How could God love me that way?
“You mean God, that you love me in this condition that I find myself in right now?”
Why is it so hard for us to grasp the term unconditional love?
Probably because we have a hard time doing that for ourselves.
When I reflect over my life, I see that I was raised with an entirely different set of standards. Some have called it PBA, or performance based acceptance.
Let me give you a few examples in my life.
As a small baby, just home from the hospital, I did not even have anything to do with this performance thing for my parents. I just did what came natural to all babies.
I cried, I got hungry, I dirtied my diaper. Pretty much wraps it up, doesn’t it? But in between those times, I smiled, I googled and gurgled and cooed at those funny people making faces at me, trying to get me to respond to them.
But Mommy and Daddy did not like it when the 3 A. M. feeding came around, but never the less, I let them know in a very audible way, that I was hungry. Now parental love being what it is, they got out of bed, warmed the milk, and satisfied my need. After changing the stinky diaper, they put me down in the bed and hoped I would go back to sleep, so they could resume their interrupted sleep schedule.
I soon figured out how to get their attention. If I wanted some loving from them, I just hollered and let them figure out what I needed. I soon came to realize, that my performance in the crib, determined the response from my parents. They always took care of my needs.
But then, as I began to grow up, that unconditional love they had for me as a baby, turned to their frustration as I did those things that most “terrible two” children do.
Crawling around under the kitchen sink, and sampling all the goodies under the sink brought cries of panic from Mom as she dialed 911, and asked if eating the Comet cleanser would do me any harm. Hauled off to the hospital to get my stomach pumped was not any fun for Mom or me.
“Jimmy, you are bad boy for eating the cleanser”, she said, and my performance that day did not reflect that unconditional love she had for me as a baby.
And so we grow up. Our relationship with our parents is truly on an up and down scale depending on our behavior. We are rewarded and punished for our behavior. If we perform in a good way, then good things happen. If we mess up, then bad things happen.
And then off to school we go. The entire school system is a “performance based acceptance” system. Even the grading system reinforces this, as we go from A-F for all the world to see.
Bring those F’s home on your report card, and Mom and Dad usually do not have an “unconditional love” attitude.
Think about it in your case! If this ever happened to you, then you were probably punished by your folks. No TV, no movies, etc, and you have to hit the books. Many parents do not take the time to sit down with their kids, and help them with their problems. Perhaps you had a parent that did that, and if you did, then you then experienced a little bit about unconditional love. Mom and Dad accepting you, even though you failed at Algebra, but in turn realizing that they had failed in the past also, and perhaps even in math. Then they have some identity with you are can offer you the help you need to raise your grade.
And so on and on we go. I joined the U. S. Air Force at age 18, and the performance based acceptance took on a new meaning. Once a year, my supervisor gave me a performance report similar to the report card in school. I was compared with others and rated accordingly. Wow, there it was in writing for the whole world to see.
Or we enter the work force, and the same thing happens there. We are judged, and promoted and given raises based on our performance.
So let’s translate that into our entrance into society. Many of us joined a church and we learned soon, that PBA was there also. I remember in Vacation Bible School being given a list of Bible verses to memorize. I got my verses memorized, and got my name on the little board for all to see. Of course those kids who failed were not there, so my little puffed up chest made me feel better than those who had failed.
Skip on into adulthood, and we find the same thing going on. If we perform as a deacon, Sunday School teacher, women’s missionary leader, and so on, then we are accepted by the leadership. We are accepted by our performance, and if we sense that God is not leading us to do those kind of things, then we bring disdain down upon our heads, by the nominating committee.
But in all three situations, school, work, and church or social group, we are covered with the PBA principle. If you mess up, get mad or just flat tell someone you don’t care, then you are usually branded as an uncooperative person. God forbid if you are a moody person or given to bouts of depression. We usually do not want to be around people like that, and do not want to take time to sit down with them, and love them through their problems. We usually do not reject them openly, but just manage to monitor the caller ID and ignore them.
In my own personal life, God has put some people like that in my life.
They exasperate me! They make me angry! They are unfaithful! They do not do what they promised! O.K., time to monitor the caller I.D.
And so I reflect on this, and come to the conclusion, that I do the same things with God. I exasperate Him, I make Him angry, and I am unfaithful to Him. Thank God He does not use caller I.D. to reject us.
But how does He react to me? You only have to open your Bible to Romans 5:8 and discover that.
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
God accepts us where we are, “warts” and all. If you doubt this, then read through Romans chapter three. “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God, all have turned away, they have together become worthless.” “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
No, my friend, God does not operate on the PBA principle.
He operates on Unconditional Love.
“I love you, Jim, and I do not care what you have done.”
“I do not understand Lord? How can you accept me for what I have done. I tried to do the right thing, and I am just like Paul in Romans 7:19. He said, ‘For what I do is not the good I want to do, no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing’”
I hate myself for the evil things I have done, and I cannot even fathom how you could still love me. After all, I have been raised to a PBA standard, and cannot grasp how you can still love me.
And gently he whispered to me, “ Turn your Bible to 1 Corinthians 12:31.”
I opened my Bible and there it was in plain language.
And now I will show you the most excellent way.”
And then I read 1 Corinthians 13, the Love Chapter.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, 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. Love never fails.” Verses 4-8
“So God, when my friend fails me, I must not keep a record of his wrongs. Wow, that is hard for me to do.”
“Just remember,” God said to me, “That is what I did for you!
I love you unconditionally.”
“And yes, I do want you to change, but you cannot do that in your own strength. I have sent the Holy Spirit to be your helper and your friend.
Embrace Him and spend much time in My Word, because that is my method to change your heart. “
"I love you, Jim."
Thank God for my home church who practices this principle.Come visit us sometime. Click on logo for directions.
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