Thursday, October 15, 2009

Unconditional Love? Maybe not so much!!!

The idea that we Christians love unconditionally is about as true as the notion that the sun is a warm fuzzy ball. Any one who believes either of those ideas is clearly deluded. The very notion that the Church is exclusionary in its gatherings is in itself proof that our love is conditional. It’s conditional upon you accepting what we believe to be truth, as truth. It’s conditional upon you looking, speaking, and acting in a manner that we deem acceptable by our measuring stick. It’s conditional upon you living your life by the same set of values by which we live ours. Why, sometimes it’s even conditional upon what color the statue of Jesus or the picture of him above your mantelpiece is. If that’s not conditional love then I don’t know what is and I’m the deluded one!

Much of the way we express our faith reflects this notion: If you accept all the things we accept, and live exactly the way we live, then we extend our ‘hand of fellowship’ and welcome you warmly (That’s why in America we think being Christians and Republicans are part of the seven sacraments). If on the other hand, you are a non-conformist and insist on questioning everything we believe, then you’re an outsider and we generally extend to you the “left-foot of fellowship.” Oh, don’t get me wrong, we definitely pay lip service to the idea that we love, embrace, and welcome everyone, but that is the theory. In practice the reality is much different as evidenced by the clear lines of demarcation along racial, denominational, and various other ‘measurables’ during our Sunday worship hour. I realize that I’m generalizing and there’s always a danger in doing that, but the larger point is clearly found somewhere in the middle of these ideas.

I recently read a blog post by Brad Johnson that chilled me to the core because of it’s simple but profound truth. Now I could paste the hyperlink here and go on to restate the same ideas, but that would be redundant. Instead I decided to directly quote some of his observations since he stated the big ideas more succinctly than I ever could. The writer made the following observations:

“I can’t shake it. It’s a phrase that haunts my thoughts at night, like some ethereal creature floating just out of my reach, taunting me.There is this on-going debate going within me about this phrase.

It’s a war. My soul says, “Yes, this CAN be.” My heart says, “I so WANT this to be.” My logic and observations declare, “This will NEVER be.”The troubling phrase? From the lips of Jesus: “Father, let Your will be done on earth…JUST AS IT IS…in heaven.”

What does that mean? What would life on earth be like, if even parts of Jesus desire came true?Questions lifted my thoughts to heaven. What is heaven like? What will relationships be like? Heaven will be filled with pure love and freedom from shame, and acceptance and peace with our selves, peace with others, and peace with God.In heaven, we will live life with no reservations about others, where love prompts us to hope and believe the best about one another, expect the best, cheer for the best?

There, perfect [unconditional] love will cast out fear; fear of being rejected, judged, disliked, hurt.I can’t get this thought out of my mind, this angst out of my heart. Jesus EXPECTED that we could have some of the attributes of heaven, right here on earth. I could. You could.So, why don’t I, in my life, in relationships, in interactions and conversations?

Why don’t we in our sanctuaries, our cathedrals, our churches, our services of worship?Why isn’t the rule of heaven…well, the rule of the day?To have heaven’s love existing between us would be a vision of revolutionary grace and mercy. To have heaven’s love would find odd-pew partners side by side, engaging in conversation and laughter and hugs and worship.

There would be wounded marriage partners, bathing each other in forgiveness. There would be adulterers and adulteresses, now clean, walking in the freedom of new life, free to experience new, honorable love and meaningful love. Addicts would be healed from shame, embraced by Christians, moving sober into a wonderful new day. Republicans and Democrats would lay down agendas of their parties and find common ground under the rule of heaven.” (emboldened word in parenthesis above is mine)

I have a few more ideas about this that I’ll conclude with tomorrow (yeah, really. I’ll actually blog two days in a row), see you then. :)


Hope R. Clark said...

What an incredible picture. I have prayed that same prayer before many times (as it is in heaven) and have often suppressed the doubt I feel after hoping for it.

I think part of the answer lies in what you said in the previous post about the Haggards. You don't recognize unconditional love and grace until you are the unmerited recipient of it. So, how can you possibly give it out freely if you can't even recognize it? And so many of us have strived to live "good" lives, by our own efforts, and have yet to come to the end of ourselves. We know the definition of unconditional love, but we don't know what it REALLY FEELS like. How can you truly embrace a broken man until you've been broken and mended yourself?

Another thought... if Jesus said it, then it IS possible. I would so love to be a part of a church that is pursuing that.

Joseph said...

Great thoughts Hope!

Zonoma said...

This is an idea that's been marinating in me for a while now. This whole idea of the Kingdom- the rule and reign- of God, it is exciting and scary and downright unfathomable sometimes. I keep praying that God will show me what this means, that He will infect me with this vision. I would love to hear more thoughts.