How to Love Unconditionally

June 28th, 2013
Creative Commons | bobosh_t

His father...ran and embraced him and kissed him.
Luke 15:20

Unconditional love may be the greatest force in the world, but we say that it is beyond us, that we can’t love that way, that only God can. And we are right. When we find ourselves loving unconditionally, it has to be God; it can’t be us, because we won’t love that way.

Everyone wonders where God is. God is right in our own homes. When our hand is stayed in anger against our child, that’s God. It’s not us. The prodigal son had no idea what his father would do when he came home after throwing his life away. He knew he had failed. He knew he had not lived up to his father’s expectations. But none of that mattered. All that mattered was that he had an image of his father and of going home. “I will arise and go to my father,” he said to himself (Luke 15:18).

Something must have gone on in the prodigal son’s home to give him that image. He must have experienced unconditional love. That did not mean there might not be punishment. Indeed, he expected it. “Treat me as one of your hired servants,” he would say to his father (Luke 15:19).

There is certainly room for judgment in life, but judgment can often be meted out on the inside without having to be inflicted again from the outside. The prodigal son’s father knew that. The very sight of his son returning showed him that the boy was coming home to face the music but that he didn’t have to play the music because the boy had already heard it.

How could the father know that? Because he was intuitive. How could he have been so intuitive? Because he knew how to love unconditionally. It was dramatic evidence of grace.

When we know how to love unconditionally, we are in tune with our children. We know what they’re thinking and feeling. For the boy trudging up the walk, hanging his head, his father knew that he had already judged himself, so he didn’t need to do any more judging.

What he did need to do was show his son that he loved him for who he was in spite of what he did—that he loved him “prodigally.”

He does something fathers in our culture are not noted for doing. He shows his son his feelings. “While he was yet at a distance,” Jesus says, “his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”


Help me love unconditionally. Amen.

excerpt from: Practical Grace: How to Find God in the Everyday by Robert K. Hudnut. Copyright©2013 by Abingdon Press. Used with permission.

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