Unconditional

My favorite triangle of contradictory biblical verses:

  • The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. (Proverbs 1:7)
  • Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:8)
  • There is no fear in love. (1 John 4:18)

This raises an interesting question.  Why is there no fear in love?  The idea is elegant, but not entirely logical.  With any good thing, there is always a fear that you’ll lose it.  If you don’t fear losing something you have, that thing must not be too valuable.

An obvious rebuttal is the idea of “unconditional love.”  If you have something unconditionally, you’re unafraid to lose it not because it’s not valuable, but because it can’t be lost.  But first, the existence of anything unconditional is questionable.  We as people are conditional – a ridiculous set of unlikely circumstances had to align for each individual to happen.  Without all those conditions, we wouldn’t exist.  And we generally accept that everything that happens is conditional, or else why would we bother trying to explain or predict anything?  Short of simulating every possible scenario and testing whether unconditional love or unconditional anything still exists, it’s impossible to know whether something is “unconditional” or “true for more conditions than usual.”

Second, something unconditional is unearned, and a lot of times the weight of that undeservedness makes unconditional love or unconditional anything else (assuming those things can exist) less desirable than their conditional, earned counterparts.  Of course, people accept undeserved gifts and circumstances all the time, but I’d bet that in most cases we either rationalize and say we do deserve these things, or we feel a bit guilty if we accept that we don’t.

I have to think that there is an enormous amount of fear in love.  We value love so highly, and are so unsure that we deserve it, that we’re always in fear of its lack.  And precisely because of this is love so powerful: only if we recognize its potential impermanence and our personal role in its expression can we appreciate it.

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2 thoughts on “Unconditional

  1. Hey Chase,
    Long time no see/talk. I read your post and found it very interesting. Props for thinking about issues such as this, I think most people could afford to think about the concept of uncondional love. I just wanted to give my opinion on some of the things said.
    For the bible verses you presented, they may seem contradictory on the surface, but digging into them, I think they make sense together. The first thing that is important to consider is what fear means in these verses. From reading Proverbs 1:7 in context, I don’t think it means fear in the sense of terror or horror; I think it refers to fear in the sense of awe and respect. If this is the case this verse makes complete sense. If someone has no respect for God, he will not have any desire to pursue the truth about God. It’s almost like I don’t really think about global warming because in my head I don’t think of it is significant or worthy of fear (maybe I should take it more seriously haha).
    The second verse differs from the first because the first verse refers to the beginning of knowledge. It is true that fear of God is the beginning of knowledge, but if that is the only way you think about God, you don’t truly know Him. He is worthy of our fear and respect, but at the same time He loves us. I don’t think these two things are contradictory.
    And as for the final verse in 1 John, looking at it in context I think the fear mentioned in this verse is the former kind fear I mentioned above (terror and horror). This verse and the verses around it emphasize Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, and how that has paid the price for our sins. Because of that, we don’t have to hide in terror when it comes to God. We have been made His children, so fear in this sense should no longer exist.
    I also agree that in today’s world there is a great degree of fear when it comes to love. I also think that love is ultimately what people are looking for in this world. But I don’t think the fear of its lack is what makes it powerful. If anything, in my own experience, fear of losing love makes it harder for me to love. If I’m constantly worried that my best friends’ love will disappear in an instant, my natural reaction would be to withdraw and invest less in that relationship. It is too risky to give of myself for that kind of relationship. The people I am willing to love the most are those that I feel love me no matter what. Maybe I’m naive, but I think most people agree that relationships with unconditional love are what we really yearn for.
    Again, awesome post, I enjoy thinking about these things. I would love to hear your reaction to my response.

    1. Thanks for the response! I generally agree with your thoughts on the biblical verses–I was more using their semantics to start a separate discussion than actually comment on their validity. I suppose I’d like to think that we yearn for unconditional love, but I think we really yearn to feel like we’ve earned love and that we’re worthy of it. I saw “Perks of Being a Wallflower” recently, and the line “we accept the love we think we deserve” helped spark this. I definitely agree that fear of losing love makes it harder to pursue in the first place, and I sort of extend that to fear of loss making love all the more tangible and powerful when we do experience it.

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