There are two types of love in this world. Unconditional love. And conditional love. Which one of those do you prefer to receive? Which one of those do you most often give? Now there’s a scary thought …
We’re chatting again this week about what it means to live the sort of life that leaves behind a lasting legacy of love. It’s something we all want to do. Okay, it’s not always at the forefront of our minds in the busy lives that we lead. When we get up in the morning and we have to get our kids off to school, ourselves off to work, we’re racing around all day like mad men and mad women to get everything done. We get home, we flop on the sofa exhausted at the end of the day. Yeah, we’re probably not thinking about the legacy that our life is going to leave behind I’ll grant you that.
But ask anyone who has a lot more time on their hands, someone who can’t get out much, someone who no longer works, an older person perhaps who’s retired, maybe living on their own, ask them what they think about and one of the things at the top of their list is the significance of their life. What impact have I had? Are people better off for having known me? What legacy will I leave behind once I’m gone?
Those are questions that actually occupy much of what they think about. They ponder those questions perhaps more than any others. It’s funny how our perspective changes as we get older, the less time we have left on the planet the more the important things become really important and one of those really important things is the impact, for good or for bad, that our lives would have had.
Problem is when you’re older, when you have far fewer days left on this earth that you once had, well it’s not necessarily the best time to start thinking about all these things right? Because by then many of the opportunities to have a positive impact, to leave a lasting legacy of love will have already passed us by and then what?
That’s why I guess we’re spending a few weeks on the program thinking about and chatting about this very thing because the life we’re living now and tomorrow and next week and next month and next year is the very life that’s going to determine the legacy that you and I are going to leave behind.
And one of the strongest indicators of how good or not, how powerful or not, how long-lasting or not that legacy is going to be is the sort of love that we give to other people. As I said at the top of the program there are really only two types of love, conditional love and unconditional love.
Now giving unconditional love is actually quite hard work. It involves sacrifice, it involves time and effort, so you have to ask yourself is it really worth it? Well to answer that question the best thing I think is to look at conditional love first.
Conditional love quite simply is love with strings attached. We place conditions on the party whom we’re going to love. I will love you if you do this but you don’t do that. Provided that you will hold up your end of that bargain I will love you but if you don’t I won’t.
Now on the surface that sounds just a bit reasonable. After all if the other person is difficult, if the other person is a pain in the neck, if the other person isn’t going to play the game, why would we love them? Let’s just cut them off, let’s be done with them, move on and of course that’s what many people do, that’s what divorce is all about.
Other times we can use conditional love to manipulate and control other people. Husbands try to control their wives; wives try to control their husbands by withholding love and affection from them. It’s a terrible thing and the more you and I think about it the less we want to be on the receiving end of conditional love, am I right?
And the reason for that is that we know we’re not perfect: we can be stubborn, we can be difficult and prickly, our weaknesses sometimes give us a distorted perspective on reality and so we can be overly touchy about this or that and so we need people to love us who are prepared to love us despite our weaknesses, despite the fact that we fail them sometimes, despite the fact that we won’t always meet up to their expectations of us. Because if we can’t find people like that we are not going to be secure in who we are and where we belong.
I’m a pretty secure kind of guy but I know that I need people to love me just as I am without putting any conditions on me because I need to belong to a family. And yet all too often the love that we ourselves crave is not the love that we give to others. How often have you allowed another person’s weaknesses or failures to cause you to withdraw your love, your friendship, your support from them? ‘Well you know, if that’s how you’re going to be then…’ We’ve all done that haven’t we? We may not say it out loud but we certainly think it and certainly do it.
It’s like pulling the rug out from someone else’s feet. They were relying on your love to support them and all of a sudden you pull it out from underneath them and they fall flat on their face.
There was a time in my life when I was difficult to love. I’d gone through a rough patch and a few people, one in particular who should have been there to love me unconditionally, failed me and withdrew their love and support. I was left completely alone in this world. Anybody who has ever been there, being completely alone, will know what a terrible thing that is.
At that time some friends came out of the woodwork, people to whom I’d never been particularly nice and they loved me unconditionally. They gave me somewhere to live, they wept with me, they held me, they encouraged me. This truly was unconditional love. Those people if they’re listening today know exactly who they are. Those people have left in me a lasting legacy of love; they’ve shaped who I am.
Each time you benefit from something I say on this radio program, you’re actually benefiting from what they did for me. It’s a legacy that’s rippled out to countless more people. Why? Because the most precious love of all is the love that we don’t earn or deserve. That’s the sort of love that will cause your life to leave a lasting legacy –unconditional love, the very sort of love that God gives to anybody who believes in Jesus Christ His Son.
Back in the Old Testament the agreement between God and His people was conditional. Basically it went like this. ‘I will bless you’, said God, ‘if you keep my commandments but if you don’t I’ll punish you’. Hmm, Israel copped rather a lot of punishment because somehow they couldn’t manage to obey God’s commandments. Sound like anyone you know?
You can read the contract, or the covenant if you will, in Leviticus chapter 26, it’s worth a read. Of course the Lord our God always knew that this bi-lateral conditional arrangement wasn’t going to work so eventually He sends Jesus His Son to die on that cross to pay for our sins:
For by grace you have been saved through faith and this is not your own doing, it’s a free gift from God, not as a result of works so that no one may boast. (Ephesians chapter 2, verses 8 and 9)
And the reason that God’s love towards you and me is so precious is that it costs us nothing but it cost Him everything, the life of His precious Son Jesus. In Christ God’s love is completely unconditional in every way. No matter what I do, no matter how badly I fail, I can always be forgiven. I am always forgiven because my trust is completely in Jesus and what He did for me. And the same, the very same is true for you if your trust is completely in what Jesus did for you.
My friend if you would leave behind a lasting legacy of love then the sort of love that you need to give today is the very same love that you’ve already been given through Christ the Son of God, it’s called unconditional love.