There are a couple of churchy axioms that I struggled to practice with consistency.
It’s said that Christians are to “hate the sin and love the sinner.” I have to admit that I’ve never found the power to do that with any consistency. I would image if one did they could turn raw hate into creative hate. And that would be good. But the evil I hate wants to stick to the person the way skin sticks to the body. Every now and then I can tear the sin from the sinner’s skin but not on a regular basis.
The life Jesus calls us to live always cuts against the grain. Separating the sin from the sinner doesn’t come easy. And neither does loving another person with unconditional love.
I’m sitting at my keyboard trying to remember if I have ever heard the words ‘unconditional’ and ‘love’ used together in the same sentence outside of a church community. I can’t answer that with any surety because I have a deeply rooted christian belief that is three decades strong. I write and read often. The terms are certainly not unfamiliar to me but I wonder about the hundred’s of thousands outside the christian faith. Do they know anything about the ultimate expression of love without condition?
The phrase ‘unconditional love’ reflects on the voluntary sacrifice of God’s Son. I understand. But the idea that the love I practice could be called unconditional is a little perplexing for me. The notion that ‘I can do this’ dissipates in my day-in-day-out practices toward others. I try with the best of intentions but end up projecting my expectations on others, only showing them favor and love when they satisfy my needs and follow my own requests. I don’t mean to act or behave in this way, but in that moment it’s very stealthy. It might be the result of my early years of living without Jesus. Habits can be terribly stubborn. No, I’m not all I need to be but thanks be to God I’m not all I use to be either.
Unconditional love is totally uncommon. But uncommon doesn’t mean impossible; it just means uncommon. Through the years I’ve seen a handful of people who practice unconditional love. These are the ones who quietly serve others right where they are. They don’t wait for tomorrow to make a difference; they are making a difference today.
I wish I could end this short piece with the declaration that I consistently separate the sin from the sinner and practiced a selfless, unconditional love. But I have a way to go. Yet I refuse to throw in the towel because my head knows that those who show this ‘other-worldly-love’ are released from the consumed self. And those who receive this love are soon released from the limitations others have placed on them.