Unconditional Love Brings Death

Unconditional-LoveI’ve come across a number of Christians lately who are questioning the impulse to elevate love above any other concern. Love is too soft and squishy, they say. Love becomes an excuse to avoid hard things like confronting sin and enforcing discipline. One writer even asked if we are in danger of making love an idol. (Perhaps he hasn’t gotten to the part where the bible says that God IS love?!?) 

I have something to tell you about people who say that love is squishy, soft, a cop-out: quite clearly, such a person has never actually attempted to love unconditionally. Loving unconditionally is the hardest thing any human being can ever try to do. Confronting sin? Upsetting friends and family? Setting boundaries and rules? Pffftttt . . . . Those are the simplest, most natural things in the world for the fallen human mind to do. Loving unconditionally? That WILL DESTROY YOU. It will cost you EVERYTHING. You will DIE if you try to do it. 

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.” ~ Matthew 16:24

These Christians who warn against love are right to be afraid of it. But not because it’s soft and squishy. Just the opposite. Unconditional love is the hardest, heaviest cross a human being can bear. It sent Jesus to his death. He warned us that it would divide “father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” 

In fact, unconditional love is so hard and so dangerous that I’ve had mature, devout, loving Christians who I respect warn me against it. One man told me to never ask God to teach me to love people the way he does. It’s impossible, he said. Another woman told me the same thing about the sort of love described in 1 Corinthians 13. It’s impossible.

Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” ~ Matthew 19:26


When you love unconditionally, you don’t get to make demands. You don’t get to pressure the other to change, to make you happy, to do as you see fit. When they hurt you, you have to forgive. Every time. When they don’t give you what you need, you don’t get to withhold in return. 

To love unconditionally, you have to “be perfect as your father in heaven is perfect.” 

“Your Father who is in heaven. . .  causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” ~Matthew 5:45

Which is the real secret of unconditional love: it has nothing to do with the person you are loving. Human love is all about the other person – how they make me feel, if they are good, what is pleasing about them, if they treat me well. If the person is good, kind, giving, gentle, attractive, useful, then our affection for them grows and we call that love. When someone is bad, mean, selfish, harsh, ugly, useless, then we struggle to call up any affection for them and loving them can become impossible. 

Unconditional love works differently. It comes from the goodness of the lover, not the loved. We humans cannot do it unless we have been redeemed and purified in love. And that’s the rub. It is as we attempt to do the impossible – love unconditionally – that we are redeemed and purified in love. Love is a terrible cross. It is the narrow path that few find. It is our salvation.

The truth is that humanity is suspicious of love because loves doesn’t address what we see as the real problem – other people and their sins. Instead, love focuses like a laser on me and my heart. I cannot attend to the work love demands of me and look at the sins of others at the same time. But if I let go of my worry about everyone else and follow love where it will lead me, the Kingdom of God will begin to be manifest in and through me.  

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” ~ John 12:24

Salvation comes from dying. If you try to love unconditionally, make no mistake about it; you will die. You will lose everything you ever took life from: the approval of others, status, power, comfort, achievement, certainty, rules, talents, relationships, titles, roles – all of it will be lost. God is a jealous God – he does not share his throne with anything or anyone. Because he is the only source of life – in his presence everything else must become dead to you. 

When I am hurt by someone, when I am maligned, when my needs are not met, human love dies. If someone mistreats me and instead of fighting back, I absorb that and bring it to my father for healing and correction, what is meant for evil becomes part of my salvation.

People will push your love to its limits so God can remove them. They will trigger your every dysfunction so they can be unlearned. They will create and play with your every hurt so it can be scrupulously cleaned out, sutured, operated on and attacked until it is all healed. They will slam up against your hard places until they are soft and abuse your soft spots until God makes them strong.

“Hold everything in your hands lightly, otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open.” ~ Corrie ten Boom

When you give up your right to judge, to hold a grudge, to be offended, to control and pressure, to withhold affection, to demand that your rights be respected, you will lose faith in everything you know, everything you trust, and everything you depend on so that it can all be cast aside. Learning to love unconditionally will lead to everything being removed from your clinging fingers until you have nothing left to hold onto except God alone. Your life in the flesh must die. And make no mistake – like death on the cross always it, it’s a long, painful, ugly, tortuous death.

 “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” ~ Matthew 26:42

Unless you really want God, unless you really want his kingdom, unless you really want to give yourself over to love completely, this is not a journey you should take. Because before it’s all done, you will beg for mercy a million times over. You will search for a way to quit. You will spend countless hours calling out to the darkness that surrounds you. You will collapse under the weight of the cross. You will despair and feel forsaken by God and man. Dying hurts, but we must die to be born again in the Spirit.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. ~ 1 John 4:18

Those people who are worried about love – ishy, squishy, namby-pamby love? They are right to be worried. Because if we all follow love, then we will have to put down the tools humanity has been been using to try to shape reality with since time immemorial – the rules, the boundaries, the battles. And if we put those tools down – everything will come unhinged. Every boundary will be crossed. Every evil will occur. The dams we have been propping up to keep the worst of human nature at bay will break. We will die. They know this and fear it. But it’s already happening. They can’t stop it and they are going to die right along with everyone else. In fact, the longer they fight love, the longer and more painful the death will be.

But it’s the storm before the calm. These people don’t trust love and are desperate to avoid the storm because they don’t really trust God. They don’t understand that the enemy death which they fear so much has already been defeated for us by Christ. In their heart of hearts, they are afraid that God will be defeated by the forces of darkness, cruelty, sin and, yes, death. And they are wrong. Completely and utterly wrong.

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new. . . ” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.” ~ Revelation 21:5,6 

God’s Kingdom is a bit like happiness – we can’t get there by trying to create it directly. In God’s Kingdom, there will be no sin. So we wage war on sin, thinking that will bring about God’s Kingdom. But sin can only be defeated through purification by love. In God’s Kingdom, there will be no suffering. So we try to fix, suppress and hide from whatever makes us suffer, thinking that is the way to God’s Kingdom. But the end of suffering comes only when we have walked through the suffering of death to new birth. In God’s Kingdom, no one will stand above or below another, but we will love each other all the same. So we work to elevate the downtrodden and bring down the mighty thinking that will manifest God’s Kingdom. But to love the low and the high all the same, we must unlearn human love and embrace unconditional love and all that entails.  

God’s Kingdom is love. It is made by love. It comes through love. It is manifest through love. If we ever want to see the new heaven and new earth God has promised, it can only be found by picking up the cross of love and following it through death, hell and into the resurrection of new life.

I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” ~ Revelation 21:3-4

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34 thoughts on “Unconditional Love Brings Death

  1. I enjoyed reading your post! Thanks for it! I will definitely look forward to reading more from you! Mind also checking out my blog? I’m just a 14 year old boy who likes to dramatize or enjoy life at its greatest extent! Also a follow maybe? :)

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  2. I’d say that “God is Love” in the same way that ‘I am my big toe.’ If you find my big toe wiggling, that’s me wiggling that toe. Likewise, if you find anyone loving, God is at work there. But “Love” as human beings think of it — as an ideal — probably is ‘an idol.’

    One trouble is, we try to define “Love” by various characteristics, by whether it fits some criteria we’d like to apply to it. We see It isn’t ‘a feeling’ so we think it must be ‘not a feeling’; we see it isn’t a behavior so we take care to distinguish it from that, then worry that it can’t be love unless it does affect what we do… as well as how we feel.

    If we just see love as the glue of the universe — as well as being the energy that keeps us truly living, rather than suffering ‘bare existence’ — then we can stop thinking about “What is it?” and just say, “There’s some of it, right there!”

    It’s not “unconditional” — nor is it “constrained.” We just do it; we don’t have to suffer over whether we’re doing it purely enough!

    There’s a distinction between “being-loved” and “loving” but you no more get one without the other than you could exhale forever without inhaling. We get ‘being-loved’ all the time from God; but it takes experience with other people & things for us to recognize what that is….

    Yes, we’re generally afraid to let God have SHis way with us — terrified that the bill will be more than we can possibly afford — and thinking we need to fear all sorts of conditions that God would never impose from outside.

    But is that love ‘squshy’? — sentimental? — blind to who and how we are? I often think of a movie my wife told me about, where a wife is telling her worthless husband:

    “Honey, Jesus loves you, just the way you are.”

    & while he’s basking in this, she adds: “He loves you too much to let you go on being that way!”

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  3. This post was amazing! I always felt strangely withdrawn and unbelieving of people who introduced themselves to me as “Born Again Christians” and explain it’s because they had said the sinners prayer and been baptized etc. It made my heart drop because I didn’t know how to explain how very different my experience was. I died! Just like you have described here. EVERYTHING that I did not give willingly was taken, EVERYTHING changed and I thought I was losing my mind. I guess in a way I was. Giving up all the lies I have believed up til then, letting go of my misconception of love and making every attempt to learn and demonstrate God’s Love. Then EVERYTHING I let go of came back…10 fold! God’s love is the hardest path to find but the most beneficial process ever. Thank you for sharing this terrific post. Blessings to you!

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    • This is encouraging to me. I’m still in the “help! I’m dying” stage and many times a day I think that I can’t possibly continue and this can’t possibly be worth it. So hearing from someone who has been there and come out the other side is helpful. And Lord knows, I need all the help I can get these days!

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      • Yes I understand completely, It is the hardest process ever! It took many years for me to come through the intense phase at the start of my rebirth. I do look back and think WOA! Now it seems to come in stages, with some more intense than others. I think it is something we will endure throughout our entire lives. I am still being changed by His love and probably will be for my entire life, dying to self a little more each time a new level of faith is reached. I guess it confirms the scripture that says we must “take up our cross DAILY” (Not a once off). It makes sense that the amount of humanity in us that must be undone, that we have inherited throughout many generations of distance from God would take some time to undo. Or perhaps intercession can not be ruled out either. Stay the course it will be worth it. Nothing else is worth the pain, and there is still pain without Him, only it comes without His protection. The Will of God will never take you where the Grace of God will not protect you! Best of Luck!

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  4. Sat nam, Rebecca.
    While I read and in-joy every single one of your amazing posts, I had to take the time and tell you how very much I loved this one in particular and how much i love you and your sharing your open heart that aids in the opening of my own and the ongoing transformation (i.n.c.r.e.m.e.n.t.a.l though it may be) of my own mind. Your sharing of your journey, which so often turns out to really be our journey, bit by bit continues to heal the wounds and damage done by religionists and funds-a-mentalists and i am grateful for you, your heart, and courage. Thank you!
    In Love, by Grace….

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  5. I was taught, as I was growing up, that every journey begins with the first step. Unconditional love means giving without expecting something in return. We humans think that everything we do should have some sort of return. Jesus loves unconditionally, He asks only that we love Him back. He doesn’t expect us to, but if we do He blesses us with more love.

    I have found over the years that I can do that also. Love unconditionally – it was hard at first, because I was expecting results, but as I grew I learned that results were not what I should be looking for. It was the satisfaction of loving another without prejudice and not expecting anything in return. It all became easier when I realized that. That is what life is all about!
    God is love and as a child of God I am love. As brothers and sisters through God we are love. I love unconditionally and am blessed for it. Live your life all day everyday in peaceful love.

    Ed

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      • When it gets personal, you feel you need to defend yourself? Why do you feel the need to respond with anything other than love?
        We need to be nonjudgmental and expect nothing in return. When someone close to you spoke words of hate and condemnation, you chose to take them that way. You could have easily chose another direction.

        Thank you Rebecca for being you.

        Ed

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  6. Interesting post. I am having trouble with the concept that a human can love unconditionally. EVERYONE has conditions and that is why we have God. I truly believe He is the only one who can love us unconditionally. The love of a mother and children comes close. Have to read this again!

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    • I think a big part of my point was that even God doesn’t precisely-speaking love anyone “unconditionally” (‘without limit’, yes!) but entirely ‘specifically’!

      Yes, God isn’t working on an “I-won’t-love-you-if” basis, but love simply doesn’t happen as an abstraction; love is for a particular entity as that entity is (including its potential to develop in unexpected ways.)

      A mother loves her children “even-if”; but that’s very much based on the fact that they’re the specific people she knows and loves; if it had nothing to do with them they wouldn’t find it nourishing at all! [That's the trouble with getting abstract about realities!]

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      • For me it has to do with shifting my concept of love away from how I feel or respond to the other person and concentrating instead on being love without regard for how the other person behaves. When my kids get into conflicts, they will usually explain their own poor behavior by telling me all about what their sibling did wrong. My response is always, “that’s about them. We’re talking about you. They are responsible for them. You are responsible for you. The two have nothing to do with each other.” It’s a hard lesson to accept, but I do think that this is how God’s love works. His love isn’t a response to us at all. Rather it’s simply a manifestation of who he is.

        There’s a poem which has long been a touchstone for me that describes it this way:
        “Unaffrighted by the silence round them,
        Undistracted by the sights they see,
        These demand not that the things without them
        Yield them love, amusement, sympathy.

        “And with joy the stars perform their shining,
        And the sea its long moon-silvered roll;
        For self-poised they live, nor pine with noting
        All the fever of some differing soul.

        “Bounded by themselves, and unregardful
        In what state God’s other works may be,
        In their own tasks all their powers pouring,
        These attain the mighty life you see.”

        I think that’s what unconditional love it like – it doesn’t demand anything, it is not put off by opposition and is entirely self-contained, depending on nothing but its own sense of purpose to do what it does.

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  7. I read the comments here and I love this line you instruct with your children
    “that’s about them. We’re talking about you. They are responsible for them. You are responsible for you. The two have nothing to do with each other.”
    I was not raised this way and yet want desperately to teach it to my children and even my siblings.
    I also like what you said about God’s Love is a manifestation of who He is not in response to us! Wow that is so profound! Great mind-stretching convo. Love it!

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  8. The dumbest request I’ve ever made from the Lord was that on my tombstone it would read, “She loved well.” You are so right, there is a whole lot of dying that has to happen. We give up our “rights” to be anything but the children of God. It costs us everything.

    I’m still in that phase, too. I say it’s the “dumbest” request because it’s brought a great deal of pain. This kind of death hurts like crazy!

    You’ve written an excellent article. I look forward to reading more from you. Thank you, warrioress, for reblogging. That’s how I found you! :)

    In Him,
    Tami
    \o/
    Praising Jesus!

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    • OMGosh, Tami! I know exactly what you’re talking about. I don’t remember the context now, but a couple of years ago I said something that struck this man I was talking to a certain way and he looked at me a little strangely and said, “one of these days, we need to talk about the prayers you’ve said.” And it just clicked – that’s why my life is always so screwed up! I’ve been praying all these extravagant prayers asking God for every gift of heaven. Stupid me. (I wrote a post about prayers like this that you might appreciate: http://theupsidedownworld.com/2013/03/05/whatcha-praying-for-2/)

      Anyways, welcome! I’m glad you found your way over here! :)

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  9. I just now found your blog, via Tony Jones’ blog, which I’d not visited lately either. Excellent thoughts and writing! Inspiring reminders. Love is like Paul’s “when I am weak, then am I strong.” I think also the point Tony is making.

    We get all complex and abstract in our theologies, especially us males, and it has a place, but it’s great when people like you put it all in relational and practical terms OF living and relating. Love does need defining, but better to do that as you have than in the abstract language I’m prone to use. If we’d focus on love in ACTION (certainly more than I do), we “progressives” and the “conservatives” would find a lot more common ground… the ground of love itself, God himself/herself!

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  10. Pingback: Netzfunde vom Montag, den 15. Juli 2013 | Die Nacht ist vorgedrungen

  11. I loved this post and especially this sentence:

    “It comes from the goodness of the lover, not the loved.”

    So true. Real love is never about the love-ability of the one loved.

    And thinking about how I have fallen beneath the weight of my cross reminds me that even Jesus fell. Thanks so much for helping me bear my cross a bit this morning.

    Blessings, Bob

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  12. Pingback: If Jesus Returned Today « The Upside Down World

  13. If a corollary of unconditional love is wanting the best for a person, then I must disagree with much of your post. Never applying consequences when someone hurts you will turn them into a spoiled, psychopathic brat – hardly an optimal state of existence for anyone.

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