This is a continuation from my previous post about the Book of Romans. I wanted to split this post up in two parts only because there was too much to say in just one entry!
Along with walking in the grace of the Holy Spirit, when studying Romans God also highlighted to me the difference between His love and the way the world does love.I think since sin entered into the world in the Garden of Eden, God has been teaching mankind what unconditional love looks like. It is completely opposite to the world’s kind of love, which must be earned through looking a certain way, acting a certain way, having a certain skill, etc. Therefore, this kind of love, the one that needs to perform, is conditional and therefore not true love.
In Romans, Paul points out that God chose to bless Isaac before he was born. This is is significant since Isaac didn’t have a chance to “earn” God’s love, showing mankind that His love is unconditional. There shouldn’t be any confusion on mankind’s part that love is at all earned.
Even before [Isaac and Esau] had been born or had done anything good or bad (so that God’s purpose of election might continue, not by works but by his call) she was told, “The elder shall serve the younger.”
This revelation of the world’s kind of love (which isn’t actually true) and of God’s true unconditional love is so freeing. If we come to grasp the reality of this absolute truth, that all we need to do is receive and accept His love to get it, then no longer do we have to live in insecurity. We don’t have to perform. We don’t have to be “perfect” according to the world’s standards. We don’t have to have perfect bodies, clothes, skills, etc. And we don’t require other people to perform in order to “earn” our love.
It also showed me that God’s unconditional love is not about feelings (it’s
about action) and not dependent on feelings. Yes, God had deep affections for His people, which are a result of love, but even if the Israelites weren’t acting in a way that would give God pleasant feelings, His care and provision for His people was always there because His love wasn’t conditioned upon having pleasant feelings.
People mistaking their own feelings, affection and attraction to one another for unconditional love is probably a major reason why close relationships can be challenging. As soon as the other person stops “acting” in a way or “looking” in a way that makes the other person feel good, then the love grows cold. Resentment, bitterness, and irritation spring up, which shows that something in the relationship wasn’t lining up toward true love:
…love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful…
1 Corinthians 13:4,5
This just showed me how important it is for me to be filled with God’s unconditional love so that I can unconditionally love others. If I’m feeling resentful or irritable toward someone, it’s probably because I’m requiring the other person to behave differently so they can continue to give me good feelings toward them. But that’s not what love is all about. There are no expectations or requirements for God to love us. He doesn’t stop providing our needs because we’re being prideful or annoying or stubborn, etc. And PRAISE God for that or else we would all be completely unlovable people!