I am going to describe to you three kinds of love. And I want to use this description as a mirror to evaluate the love relationships you now have with your friends, family, members of the opposite sex, or your spouse.
The first type of love is the only kind many people have ever known. I call it ‘love if’. You and I give and receive this love when certain requirements are met. Our motivation is basically selfish, and our purpose is to gain something in exchange for our love. ‘If you are a good child, Daddy will love you.’ ‘If you meet my expectations as a lover…if you will satisfy my desires…If you will go to bed with me, I will love you.’
I’ve met so many women who know no other type of love than this one which says, ‘I will love you if you give out.’ Many marriages break up because they were built on this type of love. The husband or wife turns out to be in love with some imaginary, romanticized image. When disillusionment sets in, or expectations cease to be met, ‘love if’ often turn into resentment. The second type of love (and I think most people marry on the basis of this one) is ‘love because of’. The person is loved because of something he is, has or does. This love is produced by a quality or condition in the person’s life. ‘Love because of’ often sounds like this, ‘I love you because you give me security; because you are so popular,’ etc. you may think that ‘love because of’ sounds pretty good. We all want to be loved for certain qualities in our life. Having someone love us because of what we are can initially put us at ease, because we know there is something about us which is lovable. But this type of love soon becomes no better than ‘love if’, a truly shaky foundation for a marriage.
For example, consider the problem of competition in a ‘love because’ relationship, what happens when someone comes along with more of the qualities for which you are loved? Suppose you’re a woman, and your beauty is one of the hallmarks of your husband’s love. What happens when a more beautiful woman comes on the scene? Or suppose you’re a man, and your wife’s love is based on your salary and the things that come with it. What happens when someone with more money comes along? Will the competition put you on edge? Will it threaten your love? If it will, then yours is a ‘because of’ type of love.
Most of us have two images of our selves. We are one person on the out side, but we also know we are a deep-down-inside person that few people really know. I have learned that in ‘love because of’ relationships we are afraid to let our partner know what we are really like deep down inside. We are fearful we will be less accepted, less loved or even rejected, if our partner got to know the real us.
I’m happy to say there is still another kind of love. It is love without conditions, or condition-less love. This love says, ‘I love you in spite of what you may be like deep down inside. I love you no matter what would change about you. I love you, FULL STOP!’
Make no mistake. This love isn’t blind. It can know fully the other person’s shortcomings and faults, yet it totally accepts that individual without demanding anything in return. You can’t earn this kind of love, and you can’t turn it off. It has no strings attached. It is different from ‘because of’ love in that it isn’t based on some attractive quality in the loved person.
‘Love, full stop’ can only be experienced by a complete and fulfilled individual – one who doesn’t have to take from life’s relationships to fill the voids in his or her own life.
As a person who travels a lot, I have seen both Christians and non-Christians experience this third kind of love. But those I have seen experience it over longer periods of time (and that how I like to judge some quality of something) have not just been Christians, they have been Christ-Centered individuals.
I was in my second year at the university when I set out to write my first book, Evidence That Demands A Verdict, to make an intellectual joke of Christianity. I thought, Any fool can do that, and I qualify. My goal was to put down a few professors who simply irritated me with their talk about Jesus. After two years of research throughout the United States and Europe, it all backfired on me. I realized intellectually that Jesus Christ is who He claimed to be. And I am more certain of that today than ever before.
Christ said, ‘I stand at the door and knock. If any man hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in.’ So I invited Christ to come into my life, and in the first six months to a year, He so fulfilled me on the side that I felt free to give without demanding something in return.
You see, this is the basic difference between ‘love if’ and ‘love because’ on the other hand, and ‘I love you, full stop’ on the other hand. Love can’t wait to give. Lust can’ wait to get. The reason why I like to call this third type of love condition-less rather unconditional is that each of us is restrained and limited by our very nature, which is selfish. Rebellion against God has affected our ability to love unconditionally. Only God through Jesus Christ has demonstrated a total unconditional love. Only through faith in Jesus Christ can we be forgiven and have a personal relationship with our heavenly Father because Christ died on the cross for our sins. Whether you realize it or not, ‘love, full stop’ is very important to you.
This piece is an excerpt from Josh McDowell’s book ‘Secret of Loving’.
We hope it was worth the while.
Enjoy the Beauty of condition-less love!