If salvation was not on the table would I still love You? The honest answer to this question is pivotal to the spiritual life.
If we buy into the characterization of pure love being unconditional, then salvation cannot be a condition of our love for You. We have nothing to offer You, yet You love us. No condition for Your love exists. You do not tell us You will love us if…. But oh how often our innermost thoughts teeter on the idea that we’ll love You so that we can be saved?
There is a radio minister to whom I sometimes listenwho was talking about “election” this morning: the notion that I don’t choose You, You choose me and that You choose on whom to have mercy and on whom not to [Rom.9:15]. It seems necessary that we consider faith and love as manifestations of Your mercy. Yet Your own exhortation to reform our lives, the kingdom of God is at hand would seem to underline the importance of salvation in our motivations. One commentator on this passage says, “It is impossible to think of the relationship between God and man in terms of justice. Man has no claim on God whatever…from God man deserves nothing and can claim nothing.”We, therefore, have no claim on salvation. Like life itself, it is Your gift.
We do tend to have softer spots in our hearts for those who give us gifts. This is distinctly human. The thought, concern and care that go with gift-giving add lovability to an individual. The giving of gifts, however, is like frosting on the cake. An individual certainly is lovable when they are thoughtful, concerned, or caring without ever giving any other gift. Your constant and unfailing concern for us, Your children, is immensely lovable without salvation on the table. The gift of salvation is the frosting on the cake.
Now, in my own mind (like many people who receive gifts) there exists a latent compulsion to give a gift in return and even attempt to “top” it. Frustration is rampant here for, as much as it confuses our spiritual lives, Your gifts can never be “topped.”Accepting and understanding that we are the gifted not the givers, is, in the various roles of our relationship with You, what we must work on since it doesn’t come so naturally for us to love without condition, to give without thought of receiving or, most importantly, to receive without thought of giving, in an open, unselfish, accepting manner because we are in great awe of Your love for us and can do so little to return it. But we do what we can.
In this sense we might say that our greatest gift to You is allowing You to love us – accepting it, basking in it, and reflecting it. In the sense that salvation means being united forever with the Loved One, the sweetness of “the deal” cannot be denied. But I think there is a danger of becoming so infatuated with the carrot on the stick that it alone drives us.
So much of what we know of God is through You and wrapped up profoundly in salvation and redemption. But there is, despite their recalcitrance, something wonderful to be considered about the relationship of the Jews to God before You came on earth: the notion of the relationship of children to a father.The idea of dependency cannot be dispensed with. Very simply, we are dependent children. Maybe the only way we could love You with a perfectly unconditional love is if we were not dependent. That would be the love of God. That is what we are called to. I will feebly love You for Your great goodness.