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Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Cost of Unconditional Love

a meditation on the Sunday readings: Jeremiah 18:1-11 and Luke 14:25-33
To find today's readings go to this website

God loves us unconditionally. His unmerited mercy is an expression of that love. He desires a life-giving relationship. So, if GOD loves me unconditionally does it matter what I do? It depends.
  • If you desire to be loved unconditionally by Someone with whom you are not in relationship; then no it does not matter.
  • If you do want to respond to God’s unconditional love and be in relationship with God, however, all sorts of conditions kick in.
Jesus says: “sit down and estimate the cost.” What is the cost? Jesus is clear; love God more than your family, your stuff and yourself. Such a statement is even more outrageous in Jesus’ ancient Middle Eastern context where “the extended family meant everything. It was the only source of one’s status and the primary economic, religious, educational, and social network.. To lose one’s family was literally ‘to lose everything.’  Why would Jesus ‘love us unconditionally’ and then lay down such a horrible condition?
Because Jesus seeks to do good for us. SIN has infected us. We “ruin” whatever we touch. We do not know how to worship, love and serve God because we worship ourselves, obey our appetites and serve our desires.
So even the best family is going to be perverted; it will not function as God intended. Jesus has come to save us from the distorted and twisted love of family which damages us all.
Jesus died on the cross to save us; then tells us to pick up our own cross to be saved. Why this; another horrible condition? Because the world rejects Jesus. If you want to join Jesus…., He is over there, in the cross section.
Saying ‘good bye’ to possession means “Jesus comes first.” Why this condition? Stuff has a way of taking possession of our souls. We want to hoard and protect our stuff. We become slaves to our possessions. Jesus has come to free us of these shackles.
But understand: Our possessions and families are not the problem. Our attitude is. E.g., Wine is God’s gift; until an alcoholic shows up. In the wrong hands wine becomes deadly. So, too, family and wealth can become spiritually deadly.
The Unconditional Love of Jesus is passionate, so the language used to convey it, taking up crosses, hating family, selling everything is hyperbole. It is the language of love. (When people love someone they express it in outrageous claims “I would walk 100 miles to see you.” More to the point, in how many TV interviews after a tornado does a victim dismiss the loss of their entire home and say, “it is fine, my family is safe.”)
 God seeks a reciprocal relationship. He cannot be satisfied with a halfhearted, indifferent response. There is a reason God is called ‘jealous’ in the Bible. He offers us everything and waits our response—and it better be everything we have.
Jeremiah paints a similar picture of God’s love. In my opinion even in the Old Testament God has already begun the process of incarnation. His self limiting and self emptying enable Him to interact with us, but note the emotional anguish and the pain that causes God (according to the prophets). How can this be?
For love, God has entered our realm.
For love, God interacts with us here in time and space.
For love God gives us freedom to choose: love Him or reject Him. 
For love God gives us power to impact Him.
That is why He can change His mind. He has emptied Himself in unconditional love. Now our choosing has consequence. God’s plan for you is life in abundance. Your response to His call determines whether His plan works out. Jesus promises the Kingdom: the fullness of life. To receive it requires death to self.
God weighed the cost of becoming human. (In Jesus, what began earlier in the Ancient Covenant is now perfectly filled up and realized in thh New Covenant.) He became incarnate, and He was rejected, ignored, tortured, mocked and murdered. He was placed in a borrowed tomb, stripped of everything. That was the cost! He was able to redeem this fallen world and its occupants, He unconditionally loves you, but He invites you to respond. God’s plan is for you to be there, but you can refuse. God has chosen you but He will “change His mind” if that is what you prefer.
The conditions are not a burden. We trade the mortal existence for immortality. We trade the flawed goodness for perfection. We trade our poverty for divine abundance. We trade this existence for life eternal. The choice should be easy!

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