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You Can't Negotiate Unconditional Love

Tom, a member of our congregation, told me a story. Several nights earlier, Tom's six year-old son, Benjamin, protested his bedtime. Frustrated by his father's refusal to budge, Benjamin finally became so frustrated that he said, "Daddy, I hate you!" Tom, possessing the presence of mind I wish I more frequently had--especially when dealing with my children--replied, "I'm sorry you feel that way, Ben, but I love you." And then what do you think Benjamin said? "Oh, it's okay." Or maybe, "Sorry, Dad. I love you, too." Nope. When Tom told his son that he loved him, Benjamin yelled back, "Don't say that!" Surprised, Tom continued, "But, Ben, but it's true--I love you." "Don't say that, Daddy." "But I love you, Ben." "Stop saying that, Daddy! Stop saying it right now!" And then it came, Tom reported, almost completely unbidden: "Benjamin, now listen to me: I love you...like it or not!"

Even at six years old, you see, Benjamin realized that in the face of unconditional love he was powerless. If Tom had been willing to negotiate--"I'll love you if you go to bed nicely"--then Benjamin would have been a player: "Okay, this time, but I'm not eating my vegetables at dinner tomorrow." But once Tom refused to negotiate, refused to make his love for his son conditional on something Benjamin did, then Ben could do nothing but accept or flee that love.

The same is true with us. If God makes God's great love for the world and us conditional, then we, suddenly, have tremendous power. We can negotiate. We can threaten to reject God's love. We can even tell God to go take a hike if we don't care for God's terms. But when God just loves us--completely and unconditionally--and when God just goes and dies for us, well then the jig is up; there's just nothing we can do to influence God.

- David Lose, "Like It Or Not," sermon on John 3:14-21 posted on Day1.org for 4th Sunday in Lent - Year B, March 18, 2012