Understanding Love – Love is Unconditional
There was a little old cleaning woman that went to the local church. When the invitation was given at the end of the service, she went forward wanting to become a member. The pastor listened as she told him how she had accepted Jesus and wanted to be baptized and become a member of the church.
The pastor thought to himself, “oh my, she is so unkempt, even smells a little, and her fingernails are not clean. She picks up garbage, cleans toilets – what would the members think of her.” He told her that she needed to go home and pray about it and then decide.
The following week, here she came again. She told the pastor that she had prayed about it and still wanted to be baptized. “I have passed this church for so long. It is so beautiful, and I truly want to become a member.”
Again the pastor told her to go home and pray some more. A few weeks later while out eating at the restaurant, the pastor saw the little old lady. He did not want her to think that he was ignoring her so he approached her and said, “I have not seen you for a while. Is everything all right?”
“Oh, yes,” she said. “I talked with Jesus, and he told me not to worry about becoming a member of your church.”
“He did?” said the pastor.
“Oh, yes” she replied. “He said even He hasn’t been able to get into your church yet, and He’s been trying for years.”
I share this joke with you to remind you to laugh, but more importantly, to remind you that Church is not about people; it’s about Jesus trying to live in the people who make up the church.
The last time I blogged, I wrote on understanding love; a part of a sermon series I’m presently doing.
In the first blog, we discovered that if love is as our culture teaches, we are nothing more than romantic fanatics seeking pleasure for ourselves. But, if we love as God teaches us to love then our love becomes a commitment to others.
In review, we focused on two Big Ideas.
The first one being that love must encompass what you do. We found out from Paul in our reading from 1 Corinthians that if you’re doing great things for your own self-interest and glorification, God sees it and counts it as nothing. Love must encompass what we do, big or little, and be done with the other person in mind; not what’s in it for me.
The second one is that love cannot involve hate. The apostle John shared with us from 1 John 4: 20 that “If anyone says, ‘I love God’, yet hates his brother, he is liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.” Hate truly contradicts who God is; fore God first loved us, but had every reason to hate us for turning our back on Him through our sin. Love cannot involve hate because if it does, it’s a lie.
So since love must encompass what we do and it cannot involve hate, what characteristics of true love is God looking to see in us?
Well, picking up with verse 4 in 1 Corinthians 13, we see what God wants to see in us, as well as what He doesn’t want to see.
Notice the characteristics of love. It’s patient, it’s kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, and it is not proud. Now remember, love doesn’t point fingers at others because Jesus also said, “Remove the log from your own eye before trying to remove the speck from your brother’s.” In other words, it’s pretty hard to point out and fix the faults of others when we have large, enormous faults of our own that we don’t want to admit to. But going on, love is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres.
The understanding of love that Paul has given us is ideal. It’s perfect. Yet, have you and I ever failed to live up to this ideal at some point in our lives? You bet ya! We’re not God, we’re sinners. But don’t let that be your excuse for not striving for it. God is shaping and molding us while we’re on this earth to become more and more like this ideal – more and more like Him. The fruition of this undertaking will not be made complete until God’s children return home to their father’s house.
So our 3rd Big Idea is this: Love is an unconditional action.
Put love into action and we see that love requires us to think before we react, it requires us to stop and hear before we go, and it requires us to place others in a place of honor, even our enemies, without expecting anything in return. Love is action.
Someone once said: A bell is not a bell until you ring it. A song is not a song until you sing it. And love in your heart is not love until you give it away.
Frederick W. Faber said, “Kindness has converted more sinners than zeal, eloquence, or learning.”
Love is an unconditional action shown through living out the characteristics of true love. That’s what God showed us in his son Jesus. So go out and do the same, but don’t desire anything in return.
Love isn’t love when it’s done for your benefit. No love is love when you give it away.