Monday, March 30, 2015

The unconditional love of God - does it require an unconditional acceptance?

I have pondered often and long and hard about the unconditional love of God, as taught and shown by Christ.  Oftentimes, this happens when what I see happening before me and the world are clear displays of evils, injustices, deliberate violence and blatant harm.  The people behind these acts which have caused much suffering would inevitably face God in the end.  How would God’s mercy and unconditional love confront these people? 

Perhaps it is because we are hemmed in and defined by our own sense of earthly justice and retribution that makes this a bit of a problem, and that the issue lies on our end, and certainly not on God’s.  Much as there are many places in the Bible that speaks about how good will eventually be vindicated, and that evil will never have the last word, we also need to remember that scripture was written by human beings who themselves had struggles with such challenges in life as well, and these must have influenced their writing of God’s word.  None of the books were named after amanuenses whose hands (and minds) were controlled by God. 

Where does the root of salvation lie?  Isn’t it in the acceptance of God’s abundant, unconditional and eternal love?  Love, as many of us know by experience, is best and most sincere when it is given despite there not being any reciprocation and return of love.  Love, when it is true and unconditional doesn’t insist on being loved back.  Isn't that what being ‘unconditional’ means?  I am heartened by the image of the prodigal father always going out of the house to meet his sons, be they the reprehensible and wayward one, or the angry, bitter and unhappy stay-at-home one. 

If this is true, and indeed we hope it is, then I think it is not a stretch of the imagination to hope that there are no souls in hell - at least none that are willing to at least return the look of love given them by the ultimate lover of us all.  In this regard, there should only be souls in hell, which flatly reject and spurn the love that would never force them to enjoy the bliss of heaven for eternity.  A hardened soul, and one which finds the promises of heaven something so repugnant and abhorrent will be in hell even when forced to be in heaven. 

It is in this life that we have a whole host of problems because I think we do not want to be redeemed by love.  We want to control, to be masters, and to understand.  Though it is not wrong, it may be our very undoing in the end when the unending embrace of God requires of us to give up control, to be mastered, and to be understood by love.  The ultimate sin has to be that we do not want any part of that divine embrace because it is deemed to be an insult to our human pride. 

We will never really know what the abundant mercy and the unconditional love of God looks like till we die, but we get a very good idea of this whenever we look at and venerate the cross of Christ.  The arms of Jesus were stretched wide open on the cross on that first Good Friday at Calvary, and Jesus allowed this to be done to him.  He did it to show just how great the span of God’s love and forgiveness is.  The Cross is God’s embrace of the unconditional love which he has for each one of us. 

A converted heart is one which wants to accept this willingly, deliberately, and most of all, lovingly. 


  1. We will never know nor understand the depth of God's generosity nor the extent of His invitation to love. We behave sometimes like the 'filial and dutiful' son, jealous that the 'prodigal' others have returned to Him in their final hours and are still allowed to enter into that loving embrace. Even if non believers leave this world 'agnostic', I would like to think that God has somehow prepared a place for them in His house too.

    Yes, we sometimes do not want to be redeemed by Love. The simple reason is that when we bare all, we see ourselves exposed in all our faults and shortcomings. And its not a nice feeling at all..So we try to cover them up and pretend we are ok. We also become defensive and protect ourselves with 'armour' to avoid knowing the truth.

    But if we realise our faults and shortcomings, we would be on our way to improving ourselves. Parents encouraging discipline and delay gratification in children are moulding the character for later life. Most of us encounter some significant trials in life as well and how we respond may depend on the strength or weakness of our faith.

    Our 'conditional' human relationships may only give us a shadow, a glimpse of God's gentle invitation to 'come back to Him with all our hearts, don't let fear keep us apart.... Long have I waited for your coming home to Me and living deeply Our new Life....Amen.

  2. “The unconditional love of God- does it require an unconditional acceptance?”

    For mortals like us, God’s unconditional love is equivalent to a gift of the heart- with no strings attached, a pure act of generosity that merely requires our acquiescence and acceptance for Love’s healing and saving power to be unleashed. However, it may not be as easily achieved as we think because we are ‘conditioned’ beings. We know that even from its onset, Life is conditional – for example if we don’t eat, sleep or drink (water), we die. And later on in life, we are programmed to be conditional, placing some degree of conditions on nearly all our interactions and communication. So to some extent, what you said about us not wanting “to be redeemed by love” makes sense.

    Perhaps that is why this Love has to ‘take flesh and dwell amongst us’. Reflecting on the evening mass today - the Gospel of the washing of the feet at the Last Supper was a profound insight into the essence of Christ’s love for us. And the depth of this Love is further revealed - when he poured out ‘his life as a libation, an atonement for our sins’ on the cross. With such a public declaration, how can we still spurn this gift? Struggling to comprehend the full extent and depth of this Love gives me a sense of value – endearing and of being treasured.

    God bless you, Fr.