This is a cartoon drawn by an artist calling herself eflake. It appeared in The New Yorker in June 2011. 

Nearly all of the “trouble, sorrow, need, sickness or any other adversity”[1]  I see in my ministry is rooted right here…perhaps not in the particular quality of the maternal relationship, but certainly in the diseased ambivalence of conditional Love.

[1] The Book of Common Prayer, pg 329

The Episcopal Church of the Holy Innocents 

For more than are conscious of it, or if so will admit it, there is a parent/child root to conditional Love. But good therapy isn’t enough. Just knowing that you were/are conditionally loved doesn’t mean you will automatically avoid loving conditionally…the damaging formation of conditional Love touches even the most robust, self-aware personalities- no matter whom it was who first showed it to you, conditional Love can still hurt you and anyone to whom you knowingly or unwittingly pass it along. 

Beyond the psychology of Love lies the theology of Love.  Those who do not believe are misguided, but they are also blissful in their cosmic ignorance. For those of us who do believe, how we understand the nature and conditions of our being loved by God, and how we perceive ourselves reflecting that Love, tells much of our story. 

If we cast God is a scorekeeper, we delude ourselves into racking-up “good-points” against an inevitable tally of errors, hoping to lose by a narrower margin. We spend a lifetime playing defense against God. 

If we hope God is a cosmic sugar daddy, the Cross is nonsense. We spend a lifetime as barely faithful, vacuous airheads, believing that ‘all dogs go to Heaven’...our choices being without consequence because we’re just so doggoned nice…making God a thin veil-  nothing more really than a reflection of our ego serving our unfettered personal autonomy.  

If we fear God is angry, it doesn’t make much difference anyway, and we live our lives trying to keep our heads down, staying well out of His way. We spend a lifetime avoiding God. 

If our confusion renders God as a borderline personality, we feel Him draw us close, only to distance us and control us by keeping us off balance.  We spend a lifetime protecting ourselves from a capricious, unstable, dangerous God. 

Here’s the biggest leap of Faith, friends- believing that God really does love you…that God really does love you personally and not just as an idea, or as an anonymous member of a larger herd…YOU- the person reading this- are personally known and loved by God. And the only condition of God’s love is that it’s boundless. 

We assume we have to be good because we want to grow closer to God, when the Truth is we grow closer to God simply by knowing He loves us as He does. That, inevitably, cannot but make us “good.” The motives and conditions of right behavior are the result of knowing you’re loved unconditionally; they are NOT the first requirement by which God loves us. 

The condition God’s love places on us is understood in our simple, one word answer to: 

“Do you believe that I love you?” 

If we can answer “Yes,” our spirits are strengthened, our behaviors change, and we will continue to be changed across a lifetime of loving the God Who loved us first. If we answer “No,” or “Not sure,” there will never be enough…life will be a continuous exercise in futile relationships that will disappoint and deceive us before they disappoint and deceive anyone else. 

Be of good cheer. God has all the time you need, and His Love for you is unconditionally radiant, abiding, and without end. 

Jesus said so at The Cross. Do you believe this? 

Love you. See you in Church.

FBC3+, 2 October 2016, being The Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost