Monday, March 31, 2014

What do we do with God's unconditional love

Whenever we think of God’s love or speak about it, a common word that we would use is ‘unconditional’ to describe just how immensely different it is from our understanding of love as we know it.  While it is certainly not wrong, and unconditionally bears a certain divine specialness to it, we are often left with a holy ‘hot potato’ in our hands.  What do we do about it?  What is this supposed to do to me in the way that I live my life?  That God loves us unconditionally is certainly something wonderful to know, but little has been said or written about what I should do about it.  I am certain that if we realise what God wants us to do with this precious and unfathomable gift, we will live our lives differently.

Love given has to be returned.  Not as a command, not as a law, but as a response in love whose imperative originates from the depth of our very being.  Scripture puts it in the way of a command – that we love the Lord our God with all our hearts, our minds and our strength.  But this ‘command’ is often misunderstood, as if to say that God is an insecure being who is so desperate and needy for a return of love.  It is a command simply because it is something that we know we have to do, failing which we know that we have been untrue to ourselves.  It's in our DNA to love - after all, we are made in God's image.

If love is only received and is not given lovingly back to the giver, one becomes a storer, a hoarder, or a self-indulgent person.  We only need to look at the way the three persons of the Holy Trinity love one another.  Keeping nothing to himself, each person upon having received the total and complete love from the other totally depletes and exhausts that love in returning it in love to the giver, and that exchange continues endlessly through time, giving existence to all that there is.  This is something that we need to try to imitate as much as possible in the generous way that we extend love to one another.

But knowing this still hasn’t taught me what to do with my being loved unconditionally by God until I have some understanding of how I am to love my God unconditionally too.  Until we begin to love God as unconditionally as we can, we will be merely taking God’s love for granted and live out lives largely unchanged and untransformed.

Our unconditional love of God has a lot to do with the way we worship him.  When we only choose to worship him in good times and to thank him when things go our way, our worship has a certain conditionality attached to it.  Some of us may be afflicted with what I would call the ‘feelings dis-ease’ when we pray, which causes our personal prayer life to depend on how we feel.  But if we really come to think about it, isn’t real love something that cannot be simply based on feelings?  If married couples only depend on their loving feelings to be loving, they wouldn’t be loving for very long.  Real and lasting love is a decision, which stands the tests of good times and bad, sickness and health.  It has to be something that stands apart from our feelings.  If we only worship God and pray when we ‘feel’ like it, we may be worshipping our feelings without realizing it.  But when love is a decision, our love becomes purified and we move ourselves and our egos out of the central point of focus and begin to put God where he should be.

One concrete way of loving God unconditionally is when we stay steadfast to loving God despite the trials and hardships that come our way in life.  If our faith only tells us to love God when life is smooth and all problems are settled, our love for God can easily be conditional without our realizing it.  But faith becomes active when despite our dark horizons and hardships in life, where we are faced with challenges of various kinds, we do not waver in our worship and praise of God. 

I am certain that we will worship better as a community if there are more people who are joyful witnesses of unconditional love, both of God and of one’s fellowman and woman.  To the extent that we can love another human being unconditionally is the extent that we become holy, as God is holy.  One problem is that we think these examples of holy loving come only from the lives of the saints, which the Church has canonized.  But if we think about it, there are a lot of real people, people who we may know and live with, who despite great challenges in life, continue to love God and not be bitter and angry with him.  When these people dare to lift their broken and lives in humble worship, aren’t they trying to return their love to God in an unconditional way too? 

If I am only going to love God and truly worship him when I have no more illness and when my life as a priest is as normal as it was before I was ill, my love for God would be conditional.  And my life would not be a testimony of love.  Yes, a total recovery may be a sign of God’s marvelous work in my life, but perhaps not as strong a sign as the ability for a person carrying a cross or two to continue to love God and be of good cheer.  Some people have asked me how I can remain so positive despite my physical sufferings.  Herein lies some insight to my answer.

When we look at the various crosses that we have in life this way, we can begin to really thank God for them, because these may be the very things that will help us to purify our love for God and to love him back unconditionally. 

What are the crosses that God has blessed you with?


  1. Before i can love God, truly love Him, i need to know Him, nurture our relationship, our friendship. And frLuke, it is only when i can love the irksome, the loathsome, the troublesome because he/she is a creation of God like me, i know i truly love Him.

    And so i continue to pray.


  2. What do we do with God’s unconditional love? It would seem that you have provided the answer Love (back)without measure !

    We know that one of the deepest needs of our hearts is to love and to be loved in return – by family and others that we come to know or interact with - but even more importantly by God. (though one may not be aware at the conscious level)
    However, we also know that human relationships are fraught with impermanence and that the deliciousness of desire meeting fulfilment can neither be prolonged nor dictated at will –( think of the case of a parched thirst being quenched by a glass of icy, cool water - satisfaction and satiation is both finite and momentary)

    Perhaps this explains why Man quested for the Holy Grail - even though we now learn that it is God who sought us and loved us first. It also explains the great attraction Jesus has for all of us – for though God’s love can never be fully understood, it can be is best seen at the cross!

    Can we love unconditionally? .......perhaps........but still imperfectly, I believe........ for like you said, it is a decision................. to call on faith to love in the cold and silent winters of our spiritual journey - that will give hope of a transformation when the cycle of life brings forth spring again.

    God bless u, Fr.