Unconditional Love?

            It was a cold, overcast late afternoon in January over ten years ago when I got a phone call from Dan, a college friend I hadn’t talked to in 15 years.  He got my number from the Bible college’s alumni office.  I didn’t know they still had it, since I’ve distanced myself from both the college and almost anyone I ever knew from there.

            Dan and I talked for an hour and a half.  We brought each other up to speed on ourselves and our families and agreed on the importance of home schooling our children.  Discussion of theological issues dominated the conversation.  It seems several of our classmates had departed from the truth on a number of issues.  For that matter, the college itself has drifted and changed greatly in the past couple of decades.  Dan wanted to get a group of guys together for a reunion in the summer.  All family members were welcome.  I considered myself only loosely affiliated with this group of guys, so it was somewhat of an honor to be invited.  Dan said he’d be in touch sometime later about the plans.

            I told a couple of valued friends the news about my chat with Dan.  They counseled me not to go to the reunion for reasons beyond the scope of this post.  Something fishy seemed likely.  What was Dan really up to?  Two or three months went by without further word, until I got a surprising generic invitation letter from Dan.  It was sloppily and poorly written, which I thought sullied his example as a home schooling father.  It also included some childish and snide remarks about one of the college deans our group of guys disdained way back when.  As mature adults, we were beyond that kind of foolishness, weren’t we?  Before long Dan called to follow up.  When I declined the invitation his attitude toward me changed and became rather condescending.  When he saw I wouldn’t be persuaded, he threw me a complete curve ball.  In a pouty voice he said, “But what about unconditional love?”  Didn’t I have it for all the other guys and their families?  I didn’t ask him where his was for me.  I’ve never heard back from him.

            What about unconditional love?  Doesn’t that mean to love with no strings attached?  Many churches are emphasizing relationships over proper theology.  You can’t truly have one without the other.  Nonetheless, the downplay discernment and preach broad acceptance of others.  This may sound good on the surface, but does the Bible admonish us to unconditionally love everybody or even other believers?  What about I Cor. 13, the Love Chapter?  Well, it follows chapter 12, which speaks of spiritual gifts held only by believers and meant for use within the Body of Christ.  In that context, Paul closes chapter 12 and opens 13 by saying the best thing of all to have is love.  Who is he speaking to and talking about?  Believers.  Have you heard any sermons from I Cor. 13:6?  It says love “Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth.”

            Rom. 12:18 says, whenever possible, “live peaceably with all men.” 

As Gal. 6:10 urges, we’re to give other believers first preference.  John adamantly admonishes us to love fellow believers (I Jn. 3:11-18).  However, in I Cor. 5:11 Paul warns against keeping company or even eating with someone “if any man is called a brother” and commits certain vile sins.  The next two verses emphasize that the Church is to judge itself and let God take care of the rest of the world.  In II Thes. 3:6 Paul writes, “”Now we command you…that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.”  Think how often Jesus and the Apostles warn against false teachers.  Does that sound like unconditional love?

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Explore posts in the same categories: Christian Life, Thoughts from John

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