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Conditional versus Unconditional Love.


Sermon shared by Dr. Jerry Morrissey

January 2000
Summary: Year C. Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany. January 28, 2001
Denomination: Lutheran
Audience: Believer adults
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crucial distinction between acceptance and approval. He tells us that God always accepts us, but does not always approve of our behavior. He tells us that we must reflect this way of God’s loving in the way we love everyone. We need not approve of everything other people do in order to accept them as they are, in order to love them. Jesus tells us that we can and indeed should disapprove of immoral behavior, but that a person is more than their faults, even their sins. Jesus got people to change their behavior not by shaming them, but by loving them, by accepting them as they are, where they are. Jesus accepted the prostitute Mary Magdalene, though he disapproved of her behavior. He accepted her in her being, while disapproving of her doing. When we reject a person’s being, when we decide that a person has no right to be, we feel justified in killing that person, either physically or verbally or emotionally. We destroy or try to destroy that person’s life, or that group’s life. Isn’t that the whole basis for ethnic cleansing, for gay bashing, for racial enmity, for abortion? Don’t stronger humans set themselves up as the judges of who is allowed to live, or prosper, or just be?
When Jesus’ own townsfolk received him back home, he was like the hometown boy who made good. Externally at first it looked like they were accepting him. Then, later, it became clear that that acceptance was contingent upon approval. Now, Jesus did not do anything wrong. He merely spoke. They did not approve of what he said. He said that God loved all people, even Gentiles. He quoted instances from Scripture to prove his contention. That made them contentious and angry. They took back their initial acceptance, even trying to kill him. What happened to Jesus in this story telescopes the entire history of humanity and the personal history of all of us. No wonder we need God himself to save us from ourselves. The “human problem” begins with the difference between acceptance and approval. Uncorrected by Christ, it ends with the “final solution” of a Hitler.
Conditional and Unconditional Love: Conditional love says, “I will love you if…” Unconditional loves says, “I love you because…” Conditional love is ‘approval” love. If you meet my conditions, if you do things the way I approve of, if you eat all your peas and wash your hands before dinner, and gets “A’s, then and only then will I love you. I reserve the right to withdraw my approval love at any time, without prior notice, without negotiations. I may or may not re-instate you into my good graces. Even if you change and meet my conditions, I still may withhold my approval, since you disappointed me once and there is no forgiveness for offending his or her royal highness, me. A person may do ninety-nine things we approve of, but if that person has just one thing wrong with him or her like wrong skin color, wrong gender, wrong age, wrong sexual orientation, wrong political party, wrong language, the list is endless, then I feel justified in rejecting that person. However, rejection has to do with ‘acceptance” love, not unconditional love. Unconditional love accepts a person for being, not for doing, as the person is, with or without approving of that person’s doing, acting, behaving. Conditional love, when moderated by unconditional love, might disapprove of a person’s behavior, but not reject the person doing the
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