Conditional Love

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Here is the awkward truth of my life, and likely yours…

I talk a lot about the unconditional love of God, and showing it to others, but mostly the love I show is conditional.

This was recently pointed out to me in and through the writings of Thomas Merton. If you’ve never read him, I encourage you to do so. But, beware, it’s likely to challenge you. So, you’ve been warned.

He says this…

“Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbours worthy.” – Thomas Merton

There is more depth in that one paragraph then in pretty much all I’ve ever written combined. Because, the truth is, when I reflect on it, I realize that when it comes to love, I far too often first assess whether or not someone is worthy of my love.

Before I give love, I try to see if the person meets my requirements or conditions first. Sometimes this doesn’t happen, and sometimes it happens in a split second, but this assessment of another’s worthiness does seem to happen way too much.

What I’m drawn to in Christianity, and in the quote by Merton, is that when Jesus died for all of us, He didn’t think about who was worthy or not. He didn’t just give His love to the ones who earned it. He didn’t just give His love to the ones who deserved it.

Jesus didn’t just give His love to others with conditions.

Rather, He gave His reckless, unconditional, everlasting love to the whole world. To ALL of us.

And, while I’m far from loving at that depth, that is the call upon me.

As I seek to follow Jesus, I want to learn to love like Jesus. To love without conditions. To love without first judging if someone is worthy, but rather to realize that in loving others truly, deeply, and from my heart and actions, I find the kind of worthy actions to which we are called.

Because, they are Jesus’ actions.
 
So, I write all this to remind myself of something I know, that might be the same for you. That often my love has too many limits and conditions.

But, as I learn to follow Jesus, I need to learn to love more like Him. Not first asking if someone is worthy, but first stepping out with love, being obedient and being changed in the process.

Worthiness is God’s business, not ours. Our business is to love.

And, I know I need that challenge, and that reminder.

Getting Rid of Your “Spiritual Life” : Otherwise Known as Unifying Your Life

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Today, I want to write about something counter-intuitive: to improve your spiritual life, you need to stop focusing on your spiritual life.

And, here is what I mean by that…

When we talk about our “spiritual life,” we often mean things like serving, reading our Bible, going to church, having a quiet time in the morning and so on. In essence, we have a list of things that are “spiritual” and try to do them more or deeper.

But, if you’ve ever tried this, it honestly doesn’t often work all that well. It might help for a little bit, but often quickly sputters out. And, I think the reason it doesn’t work is because we’ve bought into a lie that there is something called “our spiritual life.”

But, there is no such thing as a “spiritual life” – there is just life!

Because, in the Bible, things aren’t split up into two categories: spiritual and real life. It’s all one. The Bible doesn’t split our lives up into spiritual and non-spiritual, but when we do, we run into problems.

Because here is the thing: your “spiritual life” will never improve while you ignore the rest of your life. God isn’t interested in just your prayer time and Bible reading plans; He’s interested in all of you and your entire life. How you treat your co-workers matters just as much as attending church. The things you purchase matter just as much as your Bible knowledge. Your forgiveness toward those who have hurt you matters just as much as you serving in kid’s ministry.

Are you seeing the point?

If we want to improve our “spiritual life,” we need to improve all of our lives as a whole. We need to not just focus on reading the Bible more, but living it out in each and every moment. Mondays through Saturdays matter just as much as Sundays. We can’t live divided lives and then expect to grow.

Thomas Merton puts it this way, “If you want to have a spiritual life, you must unify your life.”

You can’t have a spiritual life; you can only have a whole life.

Now, of course, reading your Bible, Sundays, church, serving and prayer all matter immensely. But, the rest of our lives matter too. When we miss that fact, we will get stuck.

So, this week, focus not just on your spiritual life, but on living and responding to God in every aspect of your life. When you start to value each aspect of your life, you might find that God is a part of it all, and that all of it is spiritual.

Quotes to Live By…

I love a good written word, paragraph, sentence, or phrase. They move me and give words to emotions that are difficult for me to describe. So I’ve included here one of my favorite quotes or prayers. I have prayed it often throughout my life. Let me know what you think of it. But also let me know what quotes have moved or changed you?

And who knows maybe I’ll post quotes to live by more often!

My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following Your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please You does in fact please You. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that, if I do this, You will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust You always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for You are ever with me, and You will never leave me to face my perils alone.
-Thomas Merton