(There’s some discussion of this over on ChristianForums, in this thread.)
(Disclaimer: “love”, in this context, is not “romance”.)
So, a friend of mine did something sorta stupid, and apologized, and was worried that I’d no longer be friends with her. I was explaining that that’s not how friendship and love work… And it finally clicked. One of the things she said in her apology was this:
“And I intend to do better in the future, but right now I want reassurance that I don’t deserve.”
Well, that’s an interesting point. What does it mean to “deserve” reassurance? When you’re talking to a friend, someone you care about, and you want reassurance that you’re still friends… It matters, obviously, whether or not you feel you “deserve” that love.
Love is something you do, not just something you feel. Why is it important? What point is there to continuing to care about someone about whom you have no positive feelings at a given time?
The answer is this: The reason to love someone without those conditions is that the times when love is most needed are the times when it is least deserved.
Think about that. Does my friend Dave need to love me when I’m helping him move heavy furniture? Nah. He’d be glad to have me around, because I’m being useful. Does my spouse need to love me when I’m bringing home paychecks (oh, how happy that would be!) and paying for the house? No. When you’re getting along, you don’t need any special commitments, any depth or durability; you’re already getting along.
But… One time, when Dave came over and found that I was sick in bed, and had forgotten to call him to let him know… I just made things pretty hard for him. He spent a fair amount of time driving over to come do something fun, and it wasn’t gonna happen, and I should have called him. But I didn’t… And that’s when it matters that he loves me, because he didn’t yell at me, or complain, he just asked if maybe I wanted anything from the store. I was in the wrong. I had hurt him… And rather than fighting back, he did something nice for me. That matters.
When my friend screwed up, and came to me apologizing and being afraid that I’d be too angry to stay friends with her, what won out was not my anger at her mistake, but my caring for her. She’s a good friend, and what mattered most was knowing that she had been worrying about this for a day or so, wondering how I’d take the news, wondering if she should even own up to what she did… And what she needed, then, was to know that I cared, and that I was sympathetic to her suffering.
She didn’t “deserve” that… But it was what she needed.
This, then, is what Christians are talking about when we talk about “grace”. It’s why Jesus said He came for the lost. It’s why we have the parable of the prodigal son, and all the other things Jesus said to tell us over and over that He loves us even when we are wrong, when we do things that hurt ourselves and Him and everyone else. Because it’s then that it matters.
Many religious people seem to focus on the ways to be “good”, to do things that God approves of, so that God will be nice to you… But the point of Christianity is that God loves you the rest of the time, too. That you are loved even when you don’t deserve it, because that’s when it matters.
Many religions offer rewards for good behavior. Christianity offers forgiveness for bad behavior. I think that matters. I know that it is what I value about my true friends, more than anything else.
From: Trey Jackson
Date: 2004-07-29 14:20:58 -0500
Well said! Many could learn from your lesson.
Date: 2008-09-09 20:32:21 -0500
yeah. right. that will happen.