Thursday, January 14, 2016

Hope and God's Unconditional Love

God literally loved you into being.
God loves humanity. He loves every single one of us with a burning, unquenchable passion that leads him to pursue us and woo us at all times and in a thousand different ways. The more you know about God’s love for you, the stronger your hope will grow because you will become absolutely certain that there is no trial that comes your way and no suffering you undergo that God will not turn and use for your good.

But how can we be sure that God loves human kind? How can we know for absolute certain that He desires us and wants us to be with Him? The proofs for this is written in the capacity for men to love, in human anatomy, through evolution, in original sin, and in Jesus Christ.

The Origin of Love

Human beings aren’t the only beings on this planet capable of love. Animals love one another, too, even if they don’t write poetry or paint paintings about that love. In fact, psychologist Harry Harlow conducted experiments on primates that show that without love, they, too will die. This shows that love didn’t originate with human beings.

Human beings are not the source of love. Something else is.

Evolution and Love

Animals other than primates love. In fact, we have observed love in every species of vertebrate, and some of the invertebrates such as octopus and squid show potential for it. However, studies also show that an animal that is not shown love does not know how to love. Mother cats who are not raised with a mother who cares for them and caresses them neglects her own babies. Instinct is not the origin of love.

Evolution itself points toward an outside source of this education in love. Someone must have taught those first parents how to love, and done it for the animals as well as the humans, otherwise nobody would know how to do it.

Original Sin and Love

“Woah, woah,” I can hear you thinking. “But what about original sin? What loving God creates two beings and sticks them in an area where there’s clear temptation, knowing that they will give into it, and then banishes them from paradise when they do? Isn’t that playing with loaded dice? It seems more cruel than loving, doesn’t it?”

That God planted a tree in the middle of the Garden of Eden and told man not to touch it or eat from it despite having made it look beautiful and attractive is not proof that God didn’t love them, or that he wanted them to fail. It is proof that God wanted to give them a choice in whether or not they would love Him.

In order for love to be genuine, it can’t be forced. It’s must be a choice freely made by the individual. So, God provided a way for a choice to be made. Adam and Eve could love God enough to respect His boundaries, or choose not to love Him and take advantage of His gifts. We all know the story. 

Adam and Eve chose to take advantage of God’s gifts and eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. It wasn’t their pursuit of knowledge that was wrong. God wanted to be their teacher. Scripture tells us He walked and talked with them each evening. What was wrong was the way they pursued it. They wanted to replace Him, to get all of that knowledge without Him, so they could be equals with Him. It was the very height of ingratitude.

God could have responded by striking them dead on the spot. He’d warned them their decision would bring death. Instead, He took the time to sew some clothes for them and then led them out into the world. He spent time teaching them how to survive, too, and care for themselves. He loved them past their unlovable behavior, and He does that with us, too.

If kicking them out of paradise for a single mistake seems a little harsh, I’ll point out a few bits you might be missing. First, neither Adam nor Eve repented of their error. They weren’t sorry for what they’d done. They just blamed each other for the problems their sin had caused. Their relationship was damaged.

It’s common practice in some Native American tribes for two arguing parties to be tied hand-to-hand and forced out of the camp until they can get along. The reason for this is simple: shared suffering can unite parties faster than a lot of lectures. Tying them together forces them to stick together, and being put out of the camp forces them to rely on one another for help.

God knew the only way to heal the rift caused by the decision they’d made was to push them out of a comfortable space and force them to rely on one another. God didn’t give up on humanity. He took from them the ability to get to the Tree of Life and eternal life without them, but gave them enough time on earth that they could grow up and realize their mistakes and learn to love before He allowed death to take them.

Jesus Christ and Love

There are many people out there who struggle with what Jesus Christ’s death means, or how it represents God’s love in action. I know I did. It seemed beyond cruel that God would bring into being a son and then send that son to his death in order to save a whole bunch of other people. 

I kept thinking, “If God loves us so much why does He need Jesus to die in order to forgive us?”

God’s justice is always perfect. We get from Him in the measure we are willing to give to others. We are forgiven exactly as much as we are willing to forgive others. We are denied what we deny to others.

However, human beings are flawed creatures who hurt one another and hate one another and selfishly cling to our own goods and the goods of one another. The good we do today is often wiped out by the evil we do tomorrow.

God, being perfectly just, must return to us what we’ve given to others and cannot allow us to escape justice. Humanity, if left alone, would be doomed to an eternity of misery because we were eternally causing one another misery.

God’s mercy, though, is also perfect. He wants us to have a chance to change. He wants us to have a chance to grow in love and to become perfected in that love. He doesn’t delight in the loss of any human being. He created us all for love.

So, He implemented a plan whereby He could save humanity. First, He gave them the law to help guide them in how to avoid hurting one another. Man devised new and creative ways to manipulate that law and transform it into a weapon they could use to hurt one another more. But God knew they would need the law to be ready to receive the prophets.

God sent the prophets to help man understand the law and to guide them in living it. Men hated the prophets because they hated being reminded of their imperfections and unloving behavior, so they killed the prophets. But God knew it was necessary to prepare them for the coming of Jesus Christ, and so He allowed it to be done.

God found two people who were living His law of love as perfectly as humanly possible and He put them through a thousand tests of their faith, including a test of infertility for a time. Their names were Anne and Joachim, the parents of the Virgin Mary. Then, he used that couple to forge for His purposes a perfect vessel to receive His greatest gift.

He made sure that she was conceived without the stain of original sin. She could not be attached to sin in any way, because He was about to entrust into her care Jesus Christ. She would be the one to raise and nurture the boy, and that boy would have the unlimited power of God at his hands. Jesus would have the power to destroy the entire world and everyone living in it with a single word.

He needed Jesus to grow up in a household that would love and nurture him perfectly, one who would not damage him through their own sinful decisions. A wounded child is a broken child, and broken people do broken things. He could not afford for Jesus to do broken things. The only way to do that was to give Him a mother that was stainless, preserved from even a hint of sin, so that God’s love for Jesus could radiate through her without any obstacles.

For God’s plan to restore justice and redeem humanity through Jesus Christ to work, Jesus needed to be so full of love for his fellow human beings that he would willingly and gladly consent to accepting their punishment and to suffer what they deserved in their place without being guilty of any of the sins. He had to be fully human so that he could undergo all the trials and temptations of man and thereby provide mankind a perfect example of how to live a life of love. And last, he had to be divine in order to be strong enough to carry the weight and the torment of all that sin to the very end.

Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life because His life shows us the way to love, the truth about love, and how to live a life of love. The Holy Spirit gives us the graces needed to follow in Christ’s footsteps and sustains us in the courage required to love the way God does – without boundaries.

Hope and God’s Love for You

God’s love for humanity is not like man’s love for humanity. It is not vague, or abstract. It is very specific to you, and to each person. You can find the proof of God’s love for you in your birth, in Scripture, in your life, in the good things that happen to you, and in the fact that you are born with hope.
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations. – Jeremiah 1:5
Your birth is proof that God loves you. God literally loved you into being. He loved you into being as an answer to prayers of the past, present, and future. These prayers were not only those of your parents, whether they knew that is what they were doing or not, but of your entire family and the whole world. You are here because God loves you, and because He needs your help to heal a wounded world.
Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. – Isaiah 49:16
God loves you with a passion you can only begin to imagine. He yearns for you and desires you and He spends His time courting you in a thousand different ways as a man might court a woman whom He is intent on marrying. Each day He surrounds you with beautiful things, and brings into your life the things that you truly need. He never quits or gives up on you, never turns away from you even when you ignore or neglect Him, and never stops working toward your personal good.

Your life is proof that God loves you. His love is what sustains you. His love is what brings every good thing you’ve ever had happen into your life. His love is that still small voice inside you that whispers of better things than the struggle and the suffering and the pain you’re going through right now. He loves you, and He wants you.

Come Back Tomorrow

In the next chapter, I’ll be discussing Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory and what those things tell us about God’s never ending love for us. I’ll discuss what it means when we say that God’s love is unconditional. I’ll also dive into what Hell is, why it exists, and how it, too, is another proof of God’s love for you and for all mankind.

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