It has been exactly one year since I made a commitment to love God unconditionally. I used to think that my love for God was pretty good, but at the end of 2017, I realized that my love for God was very conditional. I would love God more or less, all based on how I felt God treated me, blessed me, answered my prayers. When I became a believer in 1983, my heart overwhelmed with love for God as I realized that all my sins were forgiven, and I would spend eternity in heaven with Him. It was truly amazing feeling to know that God loved me, and I loved Him back. Further, I can clearly remember, like it was yesterday when I committed to serving God based on the passage in John 21:15-19. In the passage, Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me more than these?” When Peter responded, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you,” the Lord told him to “feed” or “shepherd” his sheep. I took that question personally to my heart as if God was asking me, “Do you love me?” When I answered Him, “Yes,” I heard His voice saying, “Then take care of my sheep.” It was then I realized that the best way to demonstrate my love for God was to love His flock as He loved them and do my best to feed and shepherd them. However, exactly one year ago, I fell before God trembling and repenting because I realized that my love for God was very much conditional. It was conditional based on how I perceived He was blessing me or not blessing me, providing for me or not providing for me, answering my prayers or not answering my prayers.
So, on the last day of 2017, I made a new year’s resolution to love God unconditionally. I made a commitment to love God no matter what happened. If I were to ask you today, “Do you love God?” many of you would say, “Yes, I love God very much.” However, if I were to ask you, “Do you love God unconditionally?” how many of you could honestly answer, “Yes, I love God no matter what?” I look back over the 365 days of 2017 and I can honestly say that I did a pretty good job of loving God unconditionally. It was not easy. I had many circumstances when I wanted to throw the commitment out the window and revert back to blaming God for the problems in my life. Like a couple of month ago, when my son called me on Sunday morning to pick him up from jail because he had been arrested for DUI. My immediate thought was to say, “God, why couldn’t you protect my son from getting arrested?” However, I found the words that were coming out of my mouth in prayer was, “God, I love you even in this situation.” Instead, I began thanking God for His grace and mercy in the situation like how He prevented my son from being in an accident while driving under influence. Then there were other issues like financial problems, health problems, and relational problems that kept challenging my commitment to love God unconditionally. It was as if the enemy was throwing every trick in the book at me to make me go back on my words. However, on this 365th day of my commitment, I can honestly say, “God, I still love you unconditionally no matter what.”
You don’t have to be a biblical scholar to know that God’s love is an “agape” kind of love. It means God loves us unconditionally. He demonstrated this love when He sent Christ to die for us while we were still “helpless,” “sinners,” and “enemies” (Rom.5:6-10). We find peace knowing that God loves us in Christ no matter what we do. However, can we say the same about our love for Him? The word that Jesus used to identify the greatest commandment in the Law was “agape.” He said, “You shall love (agape) the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment” (Mt.22:37-38). The word that Jesus used to ask Peter whether he loved him or not was the same word “agape.” In the same way, God asks us today, “Do you agape me?” We tend to love God conditionally. We tend to love or not love God more or less based on whether He answers our prayers or not, blesses me or not, solves my problems or not, or helps me in my relationships or not. This is not the kind of love God asks of us.
Think about some people in the Bible who truly loved God unconditionally. Joseph’s love for God was unwavering whether he was in his father’s house or in Potiphar’s house, when he was betrayed by his brothers, falsely accused of rape, and forgotten and left to rot in jail for two years. David’s love for God also remained intact while shepherding his father’s flock, going in and out as a soldier in Israel’s army, running around as fugitive from Saul’s anger. Even when God became angry and judged him for adultery and murder, he kept his love for God unwavering. One of the greatest confessions of love for God was uttered by Job when he said, “Though He slays me, I will hope in Him” (Job 13:15). Even when God permitted Satan to take everything away from him, his wealth, his children, and his health, he did not blame God but uttered, “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21). Also consider Daniel’s four friends, when threatened to be thrown into the fiery furnace, they uttered, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire… But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Dan.3:17-18). Or what about the prophet Habakkuk who said, “Though the fig tree should not blossom, and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail, and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold, and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the God of my salvation” (Hab.3:17-18). To love God unconditionally is not easy, but you’re in good company of those who do.
So, in January 2017, I asked myself, “What is the practical way of showing God that I loved Him unconditionally?” I came up with three points and I tried to keep them all throughout the year. First, I decided to love God unconditionally no matter what happened in my life, good or bad. Whenever good things would happen, I was going to thank God for them. Whenever bad things would happen, I was going to find some good in them and thank God for them. I was also going to thank God for the bad things acknowledging that He was using them to teach me, train me, and build up my character. Second, I decided to love God unconditionally by keeping His words. Jesus said, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word… He who does not love me does not keep my words” (Jn.14:23-24). In other words, there is an intimate connection between loving God and keeping His words. Prophet Samuel once said, “To obey is better than sacrifice… for rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry” (1 Sam.15:22-23). Saying, “I love you, God” emotionally is not a good indicator of how you really love God. Further, I am thankful that God is okay with my best effort at loving Him unconditionally. I don’t have to be perfect at it, just my best effort. Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?” using the word “agape.” However, Peter responded to Jesus, “Yes, I love you,” first two times with “agape” and the final one with “phileo.” If agape love is an unconditional kind of love, then phileo love is a brotherly-kind of love. And even when Peter said, “Lord, I phileo you,” Jesus responded by saying, “Good. I’ll take that. Now go and take care of my sheep.” Third, I decided to love God unconditionally by loving others as Christ loved me. Obviously, there is a close connection between loving Jesus and taking care of his sheep. It is as if Jesus was saying, “If you truly love me, then love my sheep too.” The Bible says, “If someone says, ‘I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar, for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 Jn.4:20). This is how the Ten Commandment is structured as well. First four commandments deal with loving God and the latter six deals with loving one another.
Finally, I found some great benefits to loving God unconditionally. First, I came to understand God’s unconditional love for me a lot better. Every time I took my negative feelings and turned it around and said, “I still love you no matter what,” I found myself hearing God saying to me, “That is how I love you too.” Second, I found two promises in the Bible that were given specifically for those who sought to love God with all their beings. The Bible says, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom.8:28). In other words, if you commit to loving God unconditionally, then you can rest assured that God is actively causing everything around you to work together for your good. The Bible also says, “Things which eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Cor.2:9). You can rest assured that God has a special and amazing plan for your life.
Reflecting the past year, I didn’t do many things well in 2018. I was not a great husband, father, and a son. I was not a great Christian or a church leader. I was not even a great human being as I ignored the needy, homeless, and the fatherless. I didn’t even pray that hard for the brothers and sisters in persecuted areas. However, I feel pretty good about myself that I have kept this commitment to love God unconditionally by loving Him no matter what, by keeping His words with my best abilities and trying to love those around me with Christ-like love. It has become a great foundation upon I can build up my Christian faith and love. Going forward in 2019, I would like to build on that foundation and seek to bear fruit in all those areas.