…the ‘unconditional’ part or the ‘love’ part?” This is a silent mental quip I sometimes find myself making when I encounter people who profess Jesus yet behave for all the world like the world. Some of Jesus’ most fierce zealots, whom, logic would dictate, ought to understand his message best, that of agape (unconditional love), are the very ones we find most conditional in their love of others. It is stunning to me when I encounter the Savior’s most fierce advocates denouncing people for their sexual orientation or wanting to deny the poor universal healthcare because “they are lazy” or beat the war drum in the name of a “Christian” nation… Is their Jesus the same as mine? Is their Jesus the same one who forgave the harlot that the “righteous” intended to stone, saying to her, “I do not accuse you.” Is their Jesus the same one who hung with the poor and downtrodden in the ghettos of Jerusalem? Is their Jesus the same one who said “Love one another even as I have loved you.” Supposedly so… Thus my silent mental quip, “What part of agape do you not understand, the “unconditional” part or the “love” part?
However, I am at least savvy enough to realize the hypocrisy of my mind and hence have never articulated this silent accusation. Indeed, in my better moments I even turn it around upon myself, gazing into the mirror of self-reflection, whereby I challenge myself with the same question. Certainly, just like Jesus’ most fierce zealots I, too, sometimes fail to live the life that exemplifies the revolution agape demands. In my own way I, too, love far too conditionally and like others, I use those conditions to justify my own perspective and actions in the world. It is in this way that we “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…”
When Jesus came into the world he entered a world in which morality was determined by acquiescence to rules given by an external authority, i.e., the 10 Commandments. He turned this type of morality on its head (and died for this sin) by teaching us that the way to God was through love and love alone and that God’s singular command for us was to live from this place of love - unconditional love - agape. In other words, he surpassed traditional ethical standards and called us not only to realize a higher consciousness within us but to act from it as well. If Jesus’ life meant anything, even more than being a signpost to the next life, it was as an example of how to live life in this world, letting the hereafter take care of itself.
A life of agape, a life lived as a condition of the heart, a new way of being in the world is what Jesus sought to bequeath to the world; not a set of beliefs. Let us recall this lesson when we find ourselves loving conditionally. Let the heart guide us. Let the mind be its servant. Let us realize the higher consciousness deep within us all…
“Out beyond ideas of right doing and wrongdoing is a field.
I will meet you there.”
I am Dr. Riegel, minister at Grosse Pointe Unitarian Church. Enjoy my occasional blog posts here, which may cover subjects ranging from spirituality to psychology to ethics to social justice to church life and beyond...