• Steven Marsh

Learning From and With The Triune God of Unconditional Love–Love’s Concern for the Other: a Re

A few years ago, the John Knox Presbyterian Church in Pasadena, California was down to twenty people in worship. A group of young persons who were tired of their megachurch experiences wanted a church where they could be connected with people of all ages in a meaningful way. They showed up at John Knox and felt those twenty people were open to such a venture. Gradye Parson notes, “The older members saw their sincere interest and took the risk of letting them set the tone for the congregation. That tone included regular doses of bluegrass music despite having a twenty-four-rank organ. The church rebound began, and now is a healthy church with lots of young families.”[1]Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:7-8a, “It [Love] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” God’s unconditional love bears, believes, hopes and endures all things. Love wins.

You are loved by God. God has chosen you. You have a special place in God’s heart, as do the other 7.2 billion on the planet. Pause, ponder and praise God for God’s unconditional love. Question? Are we inclusive in thought only that God’s love is unconditional? I challenge us to move from the idea of inclusive unconditional love to an active, visible and experiential unconditional love. Paul, Jeremiah and Jesus were all about actions of unconditional love. They were for people, not against them.

Like Paul, we recognize that because of God’s unconditional love for all people, the discipleship practices of sacrificial giving and social action are non-negotiable. Paul writes, “If I give away my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”[2]Acts of unconditional love are not about the one doing the loving. Unconditional love is self-less and not self-congratulatory. Acts of unconditional love that are done only as an idea, beckons the object of a loveless loving act to see right through to the pretense.[3]

Like Jeremiah, we recognize that God has called us to proclaim good news to anyone and everyone. “The message of Christ is for all, and our calling during Epiphany and in all seasons is to proclaim this message to all.”[4]God’s unconditional love was on the move in and through Jeremiah’s life. God’s inclusive unconditional love for the people was evident through the words and actions of Jeremiah and he figured prominently as a model of faith for the people of God.

Like Jesus, sometimes people speak well of us because of our actions. But, more often than not, they don’t. Following Jesus’ disclosure in the synagogue that the reading in Isaiah was fulfilled in the people’s hearing, the Jews were amazed and spoke well of him. Initial amazement turned to hostility, as the audience took exception to Jesus. The people were filled with rage. Why? “…because Jesus proclaimed a grace that was wider and more generous than they were. We are happy when the ‘right’ people are forgiven, accepted, or healed, but we’re not so sure that we want those things extended to people outside our favored circles, or that we want to extend that grace ourselves.”[5]God’s unconditional love for all people affords us an opportunity to explore ways we have things in common with those who are different than ourselves.

Every Christian is called by God to live the radical gospel of Jesus’ unconditional love. The skeptical and unbelieving world is waiting to experience an honest, engaged, authentic and active Christian who models the unconditional love of God.

[1]Gradye Parsons, Our Connectional Church(Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2018), 34.

[2]1 Corinthians 13:3.

[3]This idea of a loveless loving act is gleaned from Cynthia A. Jarvis in Joel B. Green, Thomas G. Long, Luke A. Powery and Cynthia L. Rigby, editors, Connections, Year C, Volume 1 (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2018), 217.

[4]Donald K. McKim in Joel B. Green, Thomas G. Long, Luke A. Powery and Cynthia L. Rigby, editors, Connections, Year C, Volume 1, 211.

[5]Blair R. Monie in Joel B. Green, Thomas G. Long, Luke A. Powery and Cynthia L. Rigby, editors, Connections, Year C, Volume 1, 222.

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