We all dream of a love so powerful that it thinks of us all of the time, sacrifices for us, and gives to us without holding back. A sort of all consuming love that makes us feel secure, happy, complete. Many term it unconditional love, but what is unconditional love?
I’d like to spend some time talking about what unconditional love truly is and how many of us are missing the mark because we are missing a vital element. I’d like to give examples of unconditional love, signs of unconditional love, and talk about whether what we are hoping for is real at all.
If you are looking for love, true love, I invite you to grab your favorite hot drink, curl up in a comfy chair, and come along on a remarkable journey that will change your heart forever.
What is an Example of Unconditional Love?
I have read the love story many times. It breaks my heart, makes me shout at the betrayer with indignant self-righteousness, and causes me to pause, just briefly, to feel a pain I never wish to feel.
The groom pours all of his love and the abundance of his wealth into his beloved. She needs him because he rescued her from a terrible situation. A slave to the evils of this world, she was destitute, poor, and unloved.
He swooped in and saved her, set her free from her bondage, gave his heart to her and drew her into a relationship with himself. He promised to always love her, to keep her safe and protect her, to guide her footsteps and to never leave her.
But she couldn’t do it.
The love faded in her heart, she forgot the bondage she had been freed of, she no longer wished to be faithful to her one true love. Her eyes wandered and so did her heart as she fell into one affair after another. Each one was unfulfilling and brought pain, but she couldn’t stop.
She was too stupid to realize that she had left the true love that she had been seeking so she did what we all do. She looks to the pleasures of this world to bring her happiness. Surely, success was the answer, financial wealth, power, they were are her fingertips and she clung to them as if they were her answer.
They were not. She remembers her true love and returns, begging forgiveness.
He takes her back, no questions asked. He knows she has not been faithful. Her sins have imprisoned her.
Just as before, he sets her free, removes the marks about her body and loves her with an unconditional love. He forgives her, wraps her in his arms, and promises again to never leave her.
Feeling loved again, she soon forgets the wretched place her poor decisions had left her and the next shiny thing catches her eye. Before she can help herself she is found once again in the arms of another. Her true love watching and waiting.
He’s watching and waiting because he knows how this will end. She will come back seeking the goodness she has left. She will feel unfulfilled in this new relationship and return.
Do you see why I am filled with indignant self-righteousness? How dare she leave him and even worse, why would he openly take her back? He took her back, knowing she had betrayed him, knowing she had exchanged true love for a plastic representation.
In my book, betrayal is the worst. Unforgivable. I know I am not alone.
But, he takes her back because he had made a promise. One that he could not break.
More Unconditional Love Examples
Another example of unconditional love.
A man has two grown sons. The youngest is selfish and as selfish people do, decides what would benefit himself the best and pursues it regardless of how he hurts others in the process.
In this case, he begs his inheritance from his still working father and rather than showing him the door, the father gives the money set aside for him.
This kid is elated! Never has he had so much money and all thoughts of responsibility fly out of his head. He was free to do whatever he wanted and he was going to.
He leaves town and makes one poor decision after another. We’ve all seen this in Hollywood, am I right? Money and fame lead to poor decisions which eventually lead to the destruction of relationships, health, and character.
His money runs out and he finds himself in a bad situation. He’s forced to get a job but the entire country is in a financial crisis and he’s left with one menial job after another which do not pay enough to feed his hungry belly.
One day, he wakes up and decides that he will return home. He will beg his father for forgiveness. He knew he had blown that relationship and he did not expect to be brought back into the family. Perhaps his father could give him a job that met his needs?
He returns with an attitude much different than when he had left. Hard times and the consequences of our mistakes have a way of humbling us.
His father is so happy to see him that he takes him back into his home, forgives his mistakes, and throws a party. Unconditional love in action.
Is Unconditional Love Real?
If you are here, you are probably asking yourself if unconditional love is real. It is, I assure you, but let’s clear up a few myths first.
God had created a beautiful and perfect world. When Adam and Eve sinned, they were taken from that perfect world and we have struggled ever since.
Being born with a sinful nature means that we are not perfect. We often love with a selfish kind of love. We are looking for the love of another to meet our needs. Security, comfort, verification that we are lovable to begin with, acceptance, joy, peace, happiness, are all things we expect from a love filled relationship.
Unconditional love is perfect love, but we are not. We cannot go into a relationship expecting unconditional love unless our person is connected to the only source of true love.
Which is God.
Unconditional love is not this abandonment of self in the effort to get someone to love you in return. It is a love that is learned from a God who has shown us unconditional love. It is a love in which we can freely give because we are connected to the source.
If we try to love unconditionally on our own accord we will become exhausted from the effort and the pretense.
Some people say that unconditional love is accepting you the way you are. Sure, there is some truth in that, but it is not an excuse for poor or sinful behavior. God loves you, but He does not accept your sin, which is why he sent Jesus into the world to die for you.
My first example of unconditional love (at the beginning of this post) was the story of God and his chosen people, Israel. For thousands of years God has remained faithful to His people because He had made a vow to do just that. He made ways for them in the darkest days, provided for them when they chose to serve other gods, and delivered them when they fell into enemy hands.
BUT there were consequences to their sins because, as you know, all poor decisions have consequences. And while God loved them, He allowed them to reap what they had sown.
I can hear how the betrayal hurt God as He faithfully loved them regardless of their sin. I think it even hurt Him to watch them make mistake after mistake and pay for their poor choices. This is a portion of Hosea chapter 11.
“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. But the more they were called, the more they went away from me. They sacrificed to the Baals and they burned incense to images.
It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; but they did not realize it was I who healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love.
To them I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek, and I bent down to feed them.
“Will they not return to Egypt and will not Assyria rule over them because they refuse to repent? A sword will flash in their cities; it will devour their false prophets and put an end to their plans.
My people are determined to turn from me. Even though they call me God Most High, I will by no means exalt them.
“How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel?”
Signs of Unconditional Love
Now, if you are looking to have unconditional love or hope you have found it in a partner, let’s turn (I’m going to say it again) to the only source of unconditional love to learn the signs of this sought after condition. This list is taken from 1 Corinthians 13 (NIV) and teaches us what true love is.
- Love is patient
- love is kind
- It does not envy
- it does not boast
- it is not proud.
- It does not dishonor others
- it is not self-seeking
- it is not easily angered
- it keeps no record of wrongs
- Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth
- It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
What is Unconditional Love in a Relationship?
So then, what is unconditional love in a relationship?
Let’s be sure we understand something first. Love is not a feeling. If it were, my marriage would’ve never survived the difficult times. My kids may also have been shipped off to live with my in-laws.
Love has nothing to do with circumstances or what is going on around you. It is an effort to stay faithful, to support, to encourage, to forgive, to embrace together, to grow together with another person, albeit a friend, spouse, or family member.
Unconditional love in a relationship is not being taken advantage of. In my example of God and Israel, God remained true to Himself and His righteousness. He did not sin, but He loved Israel in spite of her sin.
Does that make sense? Loving someone unconditionally does not mean you can’t have boundaries, nor does it mean you accept someone’s hurtful behavior. It simply means that you give of yourself without wanting something in return.
It means you remove any selfishness and pride from your relationship and allow yourself to be present and connected to someone without all the insecure baggage we so often carry around. You are able to set yourself aside and embrace a relationship in which truth, patience, and kindness are the goal.
Unconditional Love of God
Unconditional love goes against all of our modern teaching. In a world full of self love and self care and doing what is best for me, the idea of being a servant, loving one another unconditionally, and being vulnerable are frowned upon.
Have you ever seen a relationship work in which both partners only did what was best for them? Of course not. No relationship will survive that because self seeking never makes us happy.
We were created for community both with each other and with God. It is our sinful nature that puts up barriers, creates drama, and produces something we don’t want to live with.
In my example of the father and his son, the father loved his son but did not try to control him. He allowed him to make mistakes and then he forgave him when he came back much more mature and humbled. Unconditional love allows people to be themselves and loves them regardless of their choices.
Notice that the father did not chase his son down his road of destruction. He did not compromise his position and what was right. He remained the solid foundation the son needed to return to. God is the same for us.
Often times, we need to be that solid foundation for someone else.
One more thing I’d like to say. Staying in a relationship with someone who physically or emotionally hurts you is not unconditional love either. God wants you to be safe and healthy.
Bible Verses about Unconditional Love
Let’s tap into the only true source and study Bible verses about unconditional love.
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:4-5)
Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you. (Isaiah 54:10)
Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance. You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. (Micah 7:18)
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentation 3:22-23)
But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. (Psalm 86:15)
Back to our original question. What is unconditional love? I hope you’ve found your answer. I’d love for you to share your thoughts in the comments below!
To continue this study, check out these other posts!
5 Verses to Remind Us of God’s Unfailing Love by Healing Home
20 Glorious Scriptures about God’s Love by Bible Verses for You
God’s Unfailing Love by Busy Blessed Women
Unconditional Love in the Bible by Gentle Christian Parenting