God’s Unrequited, Unconditional Love

Imagine that someone you love very dearly has rejected you. You were close once, and you’ve spent untold time and energy serving them, but now they’ve turned away from you and everything you stand for.

For many, this scenario is all too realistic. But now imagine that millions, even billions, of your loved ones have done this.

Welcome to God’s world.

I think of this a lot.

I think of this when I feel hurt by someone I care about. Knowing that my Father in Heaven has been through this, but literally a billion times more, puts my own pain in perspective and makes me respect and reverence God all the more for the noble way He still loves us.

I think of this when I’m critical of others. It’s so easy to justify thinking less of people, and holding back on anything I might do for them, emotionally or physically. But when Jesus said in Matthew 5:45 that “he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust,” he made a powerful point about the nature of God’s love.

Nobody else would have as much good reason to cut off those who’ve rejected their love, because nobody else has been so fully rejected by so many, or had so much love turned away.

But God doesn’t do that. He still pours out as many blessings as possible on all of us, constantly striving to help us have as much joy as we can, even if we deny its source or even actively fight against Him.

So much of scripture testifies that this is true, such as Jacob 5 in the Book of Mormon or, more succinctly, Isaiah 9:12: “For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.”

This reminds me of an apocryphal story I once read about Abraham, which I can’t seem to find just now, unfortunately. I think it was quoted in something by Hugh Nibley. Anyway, in this old story, Abraham invites a suffering stranger into his home for a meal. When Abraham asks his guest to pray, he replies that he won’t, because he’s a sun worshipper.

Abraham gets angry and kicks the man out. Then, God speaks to Abraham and says, “I’ve endured this man’s idolatry and blessed him every day of his life, yet you can’t be friendly to him for one day?” Abraham, chastened, goes out and finds the man, apologizes, and invites him back for the kind of tolerant hospitality that God expects us to extend to each other without hesitation.

Abraham’s a lot closer to God than I am. Truly, he’s one of our best examples (D&C 132:32). How can I really justify wallowing in self pity or ever withholding any blessing from another, when God has so much more He could complain of, yet only blesses me every day, all while forgiving me of far more than I have to forgive anyone else for? This is the point that Jesus makes with the parable in Matthew 18:23-35.

Even though nobody else has been scorned and rejected as much as God has, no one else’s love has been as steady, infinite, and unconditional as His.

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One comment on “God’s Unrequited, Unconditional Love

  1. The Abraham story was related by Hugh Nibley in his book “Abraham in Egypt” (2nd edition) in the chapter called “Setting the Stage: the World of Abraham”. Here it is:

    Abraham’s most famous lesson in tolerance was a favorite story of Benjamin Franklin, a story which has been traced back as far as a thirteenth-century Arabic writer and may be much older. The prologue to the story is the visit of three angels to Abraham, who asked him what he charged for meals; the price was only that the visitor “invoke the name of God before beginning and praise it when you finish.” But one day the patriarch entertained an old man who would pray neither before eating nor after, explaining to Abraham that he was a fire worshiper. His indignant host thereupon denied him further hospitality, and the old man went his way. But very soon the voice of the Lord came to Abraham, saying: “I have suffered him these hundred years, although he dishonored me; and thou couldst not endure him one night, when he gave thee no trouble?” Overwhelmed with remorse, Abraham rushed out after his guest and brought him back in honor: “Go thou and do likewise,” ends the story, “and thy charity will be rewarded by the God of Abraham.” In the oldest version of the story the Lord says, “Abraham! For a hundred years the divine bounty has flowed out . . . to this man: is it for thee to withhold thy hand from him because his worship is not thine?” One is strongly reminded of the Nephite law, which declared it “strictly contrary to the commands of God” to penalize one’s neighbor if he does not choose to believe in God (Alma 30:7).

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