A Thin Line Between Love and Stupid: Where does the line on unconditional love run out?
When does unconditional love become stupid? We are all out here trying to love our neighbors, our friends, our spouses, our families – but is there a line? The Bible tells us about what love is and in my personal faith journey I’ve spent a lot of time learning what that looks like. If I’m honest, I have to ask myself, what about when things go south? Think about it. What happens to unconditional love when you’re being disrespected, being used, abused, or neglected?
I haven’t done anyone wrong like I’ve done Jesus. And He still loves me.
A good place to start is with a definition. According to a quick Google search, “Unconditional love is known as affection without any limitations or conditions.”
I started thinking about this question in 2021 when a friend of mine were going back and forth about some tough relationships we’ve had. And even with all the mess I’ve been through, we eventually landed on Jesus and the reality of how He loves us.
I haven’t done anyone wrong like I’ve done Jesus. And He still loves me. That’s unconditional love. You know, there’s a difference between being saved and being a Christian. A lot of people get saved but they leave it there, they don’t have any intention of going through the steps to become Christ-like. But that’s what Christian means, literally: “little Christ”. That doesn’t make us God, but it makes a statement about who we should look like. And my God loved his enemies. He died for those who hated Him. And we can see the whole thing play out right before He dies.
At the last supper, Jesus tells Peter that he’s going to deny Him three times before the rooster crows (Matthew 26). Even though Peter argues with Him, when it comes to it, Peter basically disowns Jesus. When people ask Peter, he acts like he never even knew Jesus.
Don’t miss this: While Jesus is on His way to the cross to die for Peter, Peter is telling others, “I don’t know who that is.” Even after Jesus died and rose again, he came back to rock with Peter!
That’s that unconditional love.
When I think about God’s love, I realize He’s the only one who loves without requiring reciprocity. All of us are fine to love others – if they love us back. We feel entitled to reciprocity. God never forces us to love Him back, but instead, patiently loves us, even at a distance, until we want to come close.
Do we as people that claim to be Christ-like, really know what’s it's like to love someone unconditionally?
Unconditional love for me is all in these photos. They don't have to love me but they do, and I love them the same.
Honestly, I think 99% of us love unconditionally until that one thing that’s inexcusable – which is a condition. We say things like,
I love my wife, but if she ever cheats on me…
I love my husband, but if he ever lies to me…
I love my friend, but if they ever…
The “but” in the conversation creates the condition that puts limitations on our own unconditional love. So often, our past trauma builds up walls in our lives that create conditions for the people around us. Society wants to hand us conditions. Cancel culture wants to hand us conditions. Our own friends want to tell us what conditions to have for the people around us.
So, how do we know when we are loving someone unconditionally and being patient through a season that’s hard for them or if someone is simply toxic? I want to be clear, unconditional love does not mean unconditional tolerance. None of us have it together, and we all go through hard seasons, but it takes discernment to know when to love up close and when to love from a distance.
An important differentiation is between friendships and starting romantic relationships. You can unconditionally love a friend, but if someone is toxic, you don’t have to wait for that person to break up with you. You can care for yourself and still continue to love someone and trust that Jesus is going to heal them.
Unconditional love does not mean unconditional tolerance.
Real love endures all things, but real love recognizes when you need healing and doesn’t spew dysfunction on someone else. Relationships are never perfect, there are ups and downs, but if we are truly living to look like Christ, then our relationships will begin to look like Him as well.
Read this verse this week and ask God to show you where you’re loving wisely and where you’re loving with conditions:
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
How do you love or experience love unconditionally? Share in the comments what you’ve experienced!