An Unconditional Relationship

Written December 26, 2010.

Relationships are becoming increasingly wishy-washy. In a society where nearly half of all marriages end in divorce and many more turn into apathy or unhappiness, there is hardly any sort of standard left. As our culture becomes progressively more absorbed with “me, myself, and I”, we have adopted a mentality of selfishness. If your partner doesn’t give you those warm fuzzy feelings anymore, if you’re not constantly high on romance, then you’ve fallen out of love and it’s time to move on. But here’s the reality of it: that high you feel when you’re with a new person is not love. It’s infatuation. We have cheapened something real, something deep, something pure, and used it to describe a fleeting feeling. Obviously this is a serious thing for marriages and families. We all know that. Perhaps not quite as evident, though, is the subtle way this mentality affects our relationship with God.

Throughout the Bible, there is a metaphor used to describe God’s relationship with his people as comparable to that of a bridegroom and his bride. In this day and age, we romanticize this comparison almost to the point of creepiness (straight guys feel a little uncomfortable thinking about “falling in love” with Jesus), and it becomes stripped of its meaning. We portray God almost as an ideal boyfriend, trying to fit Him to the expectations that go along with the stereotype. Then when hard times hit and the high becomes a low, what’s left? Only frustration and disappointment remain, and it’s due to our society’s relationship paradigm shift. We need to stop reading the Bible through the eyes of the 21st century.

You see, Jesus’ audience understood the metaphor he used about the bride and bridegroom. They understood that love was not an unreliable emotion. They understood that love, at its rock-solid core, was faithfulness – unconditional, unwavering, unending faithfulness. Love meant knowing that someone would always be there for you, that someone would take care of you no matter what. Love meant security. Love was a choice.

Why in the world would we want to trade in something so powerful for a shallow imitation? We’re all about the feelings, but love is proved to be legit when feelings are overridden by actions. We’re disillusioned and disappointed when God doesn’t make us feel safe, but He’s a step ahead of our emotions; we are safe, and that’s all that matters. God has promised never to leave or forsake us, and that is the foundation of the bride metaphor.

Now for the flip side: a skewed perception of our relationship with God colors the way we approach our faith, and the outcome has not been entirely favorable. Unconditional? Hardly. We let our emotions dictate our actions. If the feeling isn’t there, we use that as an excuse to back off. We can’t play our part because our heart’s not in it; we don’t feel like praying if we don’t feel God’s presence. Our friends in this society nod sympathetically, but in a culture of arranged marriages, such statements would necessitate a headdesk. The 1st century listeners who understood the bride/bridegroom comparison also understood that actions not only characterize unconditional love regardless of feelings, but in many cases, actions produce feelings as well. It’s a simple matter of the Law of Equivalent Exchange – you can’t get something from nothing. A relationship doesn’t magically happen without effort on your part.

Your relationship with God is based on a foundation that you create; the strength and stability of that foundation depend on the material with which you build it. Proactively lead your heart, and see your relationship withstand time and trials. Sit idly by, and watch it crumble.

Published in: on April 9, 2011 at 2:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
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