Saturday, April 15, 2023
Migrated Article - Original Post Date January 20, 2022
What we are all searching for when we use the term ‘unconditional love’ is someone to authentically love us. To say we want ‘unconditional love’ we fail to look at the true meaning of ‘unconditional.’ I’m going to take a deeper look into the meaning of those two words so you can decide for yourself if what you want is ‘unconditional’ or ‘authentic’ love.
The word unconditional is defined as an adjective: not subject to any conditions(1). This would mean that unconditional love is not supported in scripture as a type of love that we should have. In 1 Corinthians 13:4–8a the Apostle Paul lays out several conditions of love.
-Does not envy
-Does not boast
-Does not insist on its own way
-Not rejoice at wrongdoing
-Rejoices with the truth
-Bears all things
-Believes all things
-Hopes all things
-Endures all things
While the later section of that list does say “all things” we cannot throw out the top part of the list for the sake of “all things.” When talking about an abuser, they do not honor the majority of the list and insist on your compliance with the “all things” section. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:19 “Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus is telling us that ignoring the sections of the commands that you don’t like will make you “least in the Kingdom” and while that is hardly condemnation to hell, you are hardly in the right either. We are going for greatness here. So to teach that love is all things is a very shortsighted view of The Word of God. In James 2:8 we are told the law IS to love your neighbor as yourself. So this is a fairly important truth of The Bible to get right since it’s “The Law.” Love is The Law and to fail at understanding this law and how to apply it is to fail at following The Law.
There are several conditions to this law of love, and just because it says “in all things” does not mean that we should not expect the same from the other. The other partner keeping the law does not mean the law is being followed if the other partner is breaking the law, it is broken. Only when BOTH partners are keeping the law is it actually being kept.
Conditions on Love
Now, knowing that there ARE conditions on love but that it should be reciprocal and both parties should be in keeping with those conditions of love we should turn our attention to what word we mean to say when we say we want unconditional love. Thinking about it in the van this morning on my way to drop the kids off at school, talking to God about what we are actually all looking for. God said to me ‘authentic.’ While it resonated with me the moment I heard it, I still think it bears looking up in a dictionary so I can fully know what God said to me.
Authentic is defined as an “adjective: real or genuine; not copied or false(2).” After defining this term it makes even more sense that what we are looking for is authentic love. We want people to be real, we want them to be genuinely helping us with no false motives, we want to be able to trust that this love comes from a place of pure motives. Not to control us or prove they’re better than us. We want someone who genuinely thinks very highly of us and “covers our offenses” (Proverbs 10:12) with their unfailing belief in us. Proverbs say this about hate and love: “Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.” This shines a light on abusers and their interpretation of what love is. If they are looking out for ways to stir up conflict or start fights they are hating you, it is not love. Your abuser does not love you if they are trying to fight you. Seems like a really obvious statement, but to people who have been abused for a very long time, or are abusers themselves, they will say “it is necessary to fight at times.” It’s really not, we can rebuke and exhort with encouragement and no one walks away feeling like they’ve been in a physical fight.
There is a gentle and brutal way of handling a rebuke (to use a Christian term) but really a rebuke is just pointing out unacceptable behavior. You can be gentle with it, using an even tone and with full respect to the fact that sometimes people make a mistake. Or, you can be brutal with your words, charging people with a multitude of crimes against humanity, yelling, and condemning them before they’ve ever gotten a chance to set the wrongs right. Take psychologists for example. They can tell you all of your failings and shortcomings and you walk out of their office with a list of strategies to repair that broken part of you. Whereas with your abuser, they tell you the most innocuous of failings and you feel so broken for burning the toast you question your worthiness to be alive. If you haven’t experienced this level of emotional abuse, consider yourself lucky.
I have decided to look for authentic love, find someone who is real, and enjoy never feeling like I’m too far gone. I am a follower of Christ. I am never too far gone, and neither are you.
We are domestic violence survivors, co-authors of Relationship Detox, and Abundant Relationship coaches.
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