Friday, February 13, 2015

Unlikeable Love

Unlikeable love??

At first glance you may be thinking of that pink or red carnation you received from a “secret admirer” in ninth grade. At my high school, an artificially colored pink carnation delivered to your locker on Valentine’s Day meant “I like you.” But a red one…oh my…meant “I love you.”

An affordable expression of affection!
What better way for hormonally charged teenagers to express their feelings than without words and anonymously? (Anonymously in so far as you could trust the student who sold you the carnation to keep your secret!)

That’s the kind of “love” that makes you want to stay home from school. It forces you to keep your eyes on the hallway tiles for fear of that ferocious awkwardness when you happen to make eye contact with the suspected sender.

Does anyone really like that kind of “love?” I doubt it, but it was a great fundraiser for the student group that sponsored it.

There’s another kind of love we don’t really like. It’s called “Unconditional Love.”

I know…I hear you objecting.

Oh, we may think we love that kind of love. And there are certainly aspects we do love!

We love it that parents have unconditional love for their children. We can thank Robert Munsch for his repetitive summation of parental love: “I’ll love you forever. I’ll like you for always. As long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.”

We love it that spouses are to have unconditional love for each other—accepting each other forever. As Jason Mraz’s anthem goes: “I won’t give up on us. Even if the skies get rough. I’m giving you all my love!”

We are especially grateful that God loves his children unconditionally. As emphasized throughout the Bible, God loves every tribe, tongue and nation. Every sickeningly self-righteous sinner and every deplorable criminal.

But there’s the other side of that coin that makes us groan and get nauseated and nervous. Because loving someone without condition means you do what’s best for them regardless of their wants or desires. Their opinion or probable response has no bearing on whether or not you do what is for their good.

When a child’s only desire for every meal and snack is a ring-pop with a side of Fun-Dip, unconditional love cannot allow it. Out of love, the exasperated parent withholds the ring-pop and offers nourishment instead. The child’s desire--“Feed me ring-pops or I will throw an unforgettable tantrum!!”—has no bearing on the parent’s loving decision to do what is best. 

And the child pitches a screaming rebellion because unconditional love is not always what we like.

Unconditional love says to a spouse, “That habit [substitute one of a million vices for “habit”] is lowering your quality of life, destroying your relationships, and you cannot see it.”

And a fight breaks out because who wants to hear that!? As a matter of fact, who wants to say that? I don’t even like telling someone their zipper is down!
Unconditional love isn’t always music to our ears.

God’s unconditional love—His dedication to our good and His glory--is not hampered by our protests to his tough love. “Go and sin no more,” Jesus said. Sometimes (OK, most times) that’s hard, and we don’t like it.

It’s unlikeable love. But it’s also unconditional.

It’s acceptance and pursuit of the beloved mixed with caring confrontation and truth-telling.

It might not be what we like, but it’s the love we most need.