True unconditional love is a hard thing to give. It means being willing to love others on their terms and not yours while expecting absolutely nothing in return. It means completely disregarding any standards or expectations you may have for other people. Our expectations act as love conditioner. But unlike the kind of conditioner you put in your hair to make it healthier, expectations don’t condition love in a good way. They act as love conditioners because they make our love for others conditonal.
When others fail to meet our expectations and we withdraw our love even in the slightest way we have just moved from unconditional love to conditional love. Conditional love is based on our expectations and not on our sincerest regards for that person. Our attitude becomes, “I love you as long as you meet certain expectations.”
We may not always think of it consciously in this way. In our heads we’re not saying, “Meet my expectations if you want my love.” But what do we most often do when others begin to fail us, don’t meet our expectations or show us they’re not who we thought they were? We withdraw. Why? Because our love was conditioned by our expectations. Complete relinquishment of our standards and expectations of others is a hard thing to do.
But it’s what God did and does for us. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8, NASB) He didn’t require us to live up to His standards for our salvation and He doesn’t require us to live up to them for us to keep it. Other than our faith in Him there are no stipulations for Him to lavish His love on us. And He even still loves those who have no faith in Him.
So why do we think we’re better than God that we can require others to live up to our stipulations in order to gain and maintain our love? True unconditional love requires genuine death to self. We must die to all our selfish ways, our selfish desires and our selfish expectations of others. That is the real challenge of loving unconditionally. Loving others for what we can give and not what we can get. That is how God loved us. Now it is our turn to accept the challenge and pass it in.
– Joseph Sterling