So, I have been meditating all week on this, taking a little time to write my other blog entries on Tuesday and Thursday, but really dwelling on this. Thanks to all of you who contributed to the conversation, it really helped to bring some clarity to this week’s offering. The most significant thing I realized was that we all think of something different when we hear that four letter word, ‘love’. Where I want to focus right now, is not on the social transaction typified by two people operating in a kind of give and take, but from a more absolute viewpoint, best encapsulated in the description ‘unconditional love’.
I promised to go back to Genesis last week, and that’s what I am going to do, though hopefully making connection with one of the most famous of bible verses in John 3:16. Why Genesis? Well, as I read the poetry of that early attempt to describe how we all came to be living in this universe, I see what could be a universal truth when it comes to understanding love. I believe that, when the author of the universe set all those complex processes in motion, it was intended that human beings would experience love right from the beginning. I have a growing conviction that the whole allegory of the man and the woman and the serpent was actually symbolic of what was always meant to happen. What do I mean by that?
I believe it was an act of love when we were offered the ability to experience not only life, but the knowledge of good and evil. In Genesis 3 v 5, the serpent is quoted as saying, ‘God knows that the moment you eat from the tree, you’ll see what’s really going on, you’ll be just like God, knowing everything, ranging all the way from good to evil.” God’s gift of love was to open up all knowledge to us humans, even though it would cause us to experience pain, suffering and loss as well as the heights of joy and happiness offered by life on earth. Even more significant, he did not foist this upon us, but the serpent in the story is symbolic of the choice we experience, more commonly called freewill. The account in Genesis clearly shows that the tree was made available, the warning not to eat of the tree was a loving warning of the consequences and yet the choice was still offered through the serpent, who was also part of the grand design.
All this to say, the author of our existence demonstrated love towards us by giving everything, and yet exerting no control, giving up any attempt to possess us, and allowing complete knowledge with only a loving warning of the consequences. This was done with the understanding that it would allow us to do our own thing, reject the one behind the act of love and all this without the promise of anything in return.
Fast forward to the account of John and we see the brackets wrapped around the end of this expression of love. ‘This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.’ John 3:16. The act of love is complete following all human attempts at ‘sacrifice’ and religious observance have failed to satisfy. Our divine inventor finally becomes one of us, which involved getting down and dirty in the mess of this earth. Once human, the ultimate act of love was available. Jesus gave up his life at the hands of those towards whom unconditional love had been expressed.
So, I have revised my initial definition of love, if it could ever be defined – best of luck with that David! Last week I applied the concept of putting others’ needs above our own. This week, in the light of my comments above, I would put it something like this. Unconditional love is lived out at its purest level when one gives everything, and is willing to give up life itself for the sake of the one loved and this is done with no element of control, possession or requirement of reciprocation. I know, who can live up to that? I might point out at this point, though, the traditional message of the evangelical church insisting on turning to God in order to avoid ‘hell’ is a far cry from the love letter that seems to have been written when you look at it the way I describe above. What can we learn for ourselves? Perhaps, if you truly love someone, stick with whatever allows them to fully be themselves.