29 March 2012

Dustbins And Unconditional Love

“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
Ephesians 5.1-2 (NIV)

One of the greatest discoveries you can make is to come to understand that God’s love is unconditional. Many Christians struggle to grasp this, not helped by the fact that some churches don’t understand it either. Christians and churches often teach that God’s love is conditional. Many non-Christians feel that there must be some special standard to live up to or a set of rules you must keep and so they reject God as a harsh, judgmental being.

All of that is very sad because God’s love is truly unconditional.  Let me illustrate unconditional love with a story about our dustbins. For the last few years we have lived in a house with a shared drive. Our property fronts on to the road with the drive going up the side of our house and garden to two other houses behind ours. So it’s quite a long walk to take our dustbins down the drive and then back up when they are emptied. We have a black, brown and a green bin, all of which are emptied on different days.

We have had an unspoken agreement with our neighbours that whoever goes down to collect the empty dustbins first brings them all back up. For various reasons most of the time that task falls to us and we do it quite happily knowing there will be some days when our neighbours will do it for us.

Unfortunately, in the last 12 months both our neighbours have moved and so we have new neighbours who do not appear to be aware of our unspoken agreement with their predecessors. So while we have kept bringing their bins up the drive we find that when they go down before us they just collect their own.

That has led to a difference of opinion between my wife and me. She, lovingly, is happy to keep wheeling their bins up the drive. I find myself battling with my carnal human nature and saying if they don’t bring our bins up, why should we do it for them? The problem is my love is conditional–I’ll do it for them if they do it for me. My wife’s love is unconditional, happy to do it for them anyway, no conditions attached.

A silly example, perhaps, and not to be compared with God’s unconditional love for us. But the principle is the same.  God, in the human form of Jesus Christ, gave his life for us without conditions. He died for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8).

Yet God does not force us to respond. God knows the power of unconditional love and patiently waits for us to understand and open our hearts to him. God knows our voluntary, willing response locks us in to a deeper, closer relationship with him than any force or conditions can.

As we understand and respond to God’s unconditional love we will want to live our lives differently. Over time we should become more loving and caring people, not by following a set of rules, but seeking to reflect God’s love for us to others.

My wife is quietly confident that our neighbours will, in time,  respond to her love and begin to bring our bins up when needed. That’s unconditional love, doing it anyway, not because you get something in return.

Father, thank you for your unconditional love. Help us to understand and respond to it by seeking to show unconditional love to our family, friends, neighbours and anyone we interact with in our daily lives.

Study by Keith Hartrick 

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