How did Mother Teresa have the capacity to love others as she did? We all wish for such a legacy. Mother Teresa claimed that she was simply responding to God’s boundless love for her and for all of humanity. When one feels extraordinarily loved they simply want to return that love to others. Leaders and employers inspire through respect and admiration. Parents ultimately want their children to understand their unconditional love for them so they might follow in their parents’ footsteps for their own good and make this world a better place. Do human parents know better than God how to change the world?
Bargaining with God is a form of conditional love. “God, if you will do this for me, I promise I will stop this bad habit that is hurting others.” Has such bargaining helped you conquer battles against self-centeredness or long-standing habitual sins? God never used fear to build a relationship but to deter people from evil for their own good. A survey of the times “fear of God” is used in the Bible suggests fearing God was synonymous with fearing evil. Jesus didn’t threatened people with Hell to gain intimacy. Hell was a human invention over the centuries to scare people into submission and obedience. The Greek word Gehenna in the NT translated as Hell is a proper noun and was the name of a real, literal, valley nearby Jerusalem that represented and warned of death. Hell is no more a translation of Gehenna than Atlanta is for Chicago.
Even human parents don’t threaten their children with punishment for the purpose of gaining a friendship. We warn them of evil for their own good in hopes to steer them from destruction. God’s love, not His wrath, was center stage in Scriptures (I John 4:8). God’s wrath is simply another side of God’s love to guide one for their and society’s own good. God doesn’t hate the evildoer but what evil does to us. The fear of punishment is meant to deter but doesn’t lead to life transformations or prevent one from finding ways to hide their actions. Obligatory obedience doesn’t lead to reflections how to better ourselves but only to reach certain “good” standards, as if loving our partner 85% of the time is true love.
A legalistic view of the Cross undermines the beauty of God’s unconditional love. God was not more concerned with our guilt and restoring His honor than desiring a personal relationship. God did not need to be appeased by human sacrifice as the other Old Testament gods. The Cross was not necessary as if God couldn’t love us until death accounted for our sins. Even human parents don’t stop loving their children because they sin. The Cross was meant to change our view of God, not God’s view of us. The Cross proves that God loves us more than we can ever imagine. God was willing to do anything to persuade us to trust in Him than our own wisdom.
God’s understood unconditional love was really the only way to change the world in the long-run. Intimacy inspires one to follow in the path of wisdom for one’s one good. Discussing obedience before God’s unconditional love for us is a hopeless journey in achieving a relationship with God and being the kind of people we desire to be. Working for a boss who can never be pleased works initially as we fear failure, but such a relationship will not last for the sake of good works. Service out of a relationship of gratitude, than obligatory obedience, is what is fulfilling and lasting. Our efforts vary but God’s unconditional love doesn’t. We can start off each day feeling accepted rather than rejected.
Unconditional love is not too good to be true; it is the only truth that will change the world. Imagine a world that was inspired by God’s unconditional love for us! There would be no physical or sexual abuse in the world. There would be no murder. There would be no violence in our schools. There would be no parents living out their dreams through their children. There would be no bigotry based on the color of your skin or the gender you were born. There would be no domestic violence. There would be no adultery. There would be no road rage. There would be no parking in handicap parking by those not truly handicapped. There would be no gossiping behind one’s back. There would be no envy. There would be no fear of letting children walk to the store, no locking of cars and houses for safety and theft reasons. There would be no selfishness but pursuit of a higher priority, which is loving others as we wish to be loved.