Unconditional love. What comes to mind when you read that? For some, it may bring up images of someone who loved you that way, and if you’re one of those, I’m rejoicing for you. But what if you’re not one of those? For many people, the words “unconditional love” are just words. Words that feel like a dream. Or a fairy tale. Or a mean joke. Words that were said to you, while simultaneously being used to manipulate. But today, I want to give you a picture that’s a little different.
As you may know, An Open Door is a Christian organization, but we understand that the term “Christian” may also carry some terrible weight for you. So today, I want to clarify: our claim of the term Christian does not mean we’re here to judge you. Every one of us who work here have our own stories of choices we’ve made that we wish we hadn’t, of habits and behaviors we wish we could stop, but still struggle with. We have no platform to judge from, so we don’t.
It also does not mean we’re going to shove our beliefs down your throat–in fact, you probably won’t hear us talk about it a ton, because we don’t know where you are with that, and we’d rather talk with you about it when you want to.
Here’s what it does mean: It means we believe there’s hope. For us. For you. For the world. It means we believe there’s a God, and that we believe He’s not a big, old jerk, sitting up in the sky, waiting to whack us, or you. It means we believe in unconditional love.
Let me explain what I mean by that. A lot of people, when they say they love you “unconditionally,” really mean “You’re welcome to hang out with me, but if you screw up (or if you have screwed up) I’m going to hold back from you. I’ll trust you a little less. I’ll be there, a little less. I’ll invest a little less, because I don’t want you to hurt me.” And that hurts us. As humans, I’m not sure we can do much better than that. Because we are always going to protect ourselves. Not doing so is a good way to get dead…
Think about it. If you stick your hand on something hot and get burned, your brain is biologically programmed to store that information and say “I’m not doing that again!” It’s a protection for us. It keeps us alive. And we do the same thing with people. Someone hurts us in some area and our brain stores the experience with a label that says “don’t do that again!” So we return to relationships, or we enter new ones, knowing we may not leave, but we won’t bring up that topic, again. We won’t depend on that person for that thing again. We won’t be vulnerable about that experience again. And that can, in many cases, be a protection for us.
But, the Bible we believe in says that “God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him” (Romans 5:8, The Message). What that means is that, when we do the things that God has asked us not to (or don’t do the things he has asked us to), we have given Him every reason to hold back from us–to say “okay. I’ll love you. I still died for you and if you believe in that, you can still get to heaven, but I’m going to hold back from you. A little less provision. A little less protection. A little less interaction.” But He doesn’t.
We believe that Jesus was the Son of God, and that he died by being hung by nails through his hands and feet, on a crossbeam, for us. We also believe that there was a miracle, three days later, and that his dead body started breathing again and came back to life. We know it sounds crazy, but what if it’s true?
If God is who we believe He is, then He knew, long before that moment on that cross, that we were going to give him every reason to hold back from us. But he did it anyway. He gave it all up, anyway. He chose not to protect himself from the people who would hurt him, because He is the only one big enough to say “it’s okay. Because I did that, I am bigger than anything you could do. Because I did that, I never have to hold back from you. I can always be there. I can always be open and available and offer you all of me. Because I already did, now I always can.”
Unconditional love is a goal for us to strive for, but I don’t think it’s something we can pull off. If we could, we’d be God. And we’re not. But He is. And He can. And He can…for you.
So the next time you see a cross–in a church, on the roadside, on a piece of jewelry, I want you to think about something. There is no more unguarded position that your body can be in, than that position–arms held open, away from your sides, pinned back, and unable to kick, hit, fight, or even move. And that’s the position God chose to hold himself in…for you. He chose not to guard himself. Not to hold back. Not to protect. Not to reserve anything. Because that is the way He loves. For you.
***If you want God to love you that way–if you want to be a part of that, you only have to ask Him. He’s always with you, so you can talk to him the same way you would talk to anyone. If you want to let Him love you like that, tell him. Tell Him you want Him to be a part of your life. That you are willing to let Him start calling the shots. And then find someone who can help you learn more about who He is, and how to get to know Him better. If you need help or aren’t sure how to do that, call us. We’d love to walk you through it.