What exactly does it mean to love someone unconditionally? I think it means to love someone in spite of whatever faults they may have, to continue to love them even when they do things you think are misguided or wrong or sinful. "Hate the sin, but love the sinner." That seems to sum it up. When you love someone unconditionally, you can support them even when they make and act upon decisions you don't agree with. It's a difficult concept for me to grasp, though. Does supporting someone in that way mean you condone the decision, that you tacitly agree with it? On the surface of things, it would seem to be hypocritical. I know there are times when I can't get past the thing I don't like to support someone I love. But there are also times when I think a friend has done something almost guaranteed to land her in an untenable situation, and yet I can still lend a sympathetic ear and an open heart to support her through the unpleasant consequences of her actions (and without saying "I told you so!"). This kind of unconditional love is something I aspire to achieve more often. It's the kind of love I associate with God.
As if loving unconditionally weren't a daunting enough challenge, now I'm told there's something even purer, and much harder to comprehend. In a recent sermon, Daniel described it using the phrase "Love the sinner... and love the sin." This love goes beyond merely accepting flaws to actively embracing them because they are an integral part of the loved one. You don't just love the good parts while tolerating the bad parts - you love the whole being, the bad along with the good. Whoa! I love the concept, but I'm not sure I believe it's possible, even for God. I know in the very core of my being that God loves me unconditionally, even when I fall short of what I think he wants me to be. Even when I break one of the commandments, or commit one of the deadly sins, both of which I do on a distressingly regular basis, he still loves me. But I just don't see how even he could love the part of me that seems to compel me to do wrong.
A wonderful thing just happened when I wrote that last sentence. I still don't understand how he does it, but I suddenly find myself accepting, in my heart of hearts, that God's love for me is just that kind of all-encompassing love. I'm not sure any of us mortal beings can hope to achieve it, but I can at least try. And I can rest secure in the knowledge that I am loved by God, totally and eternally.