In this article I want to share with you a “Teachable Moment” (life illustration) my family experienced a number of years ago that helped each of us better understand God’s unconditional love. This kind of love is not easy to grasp as the love most of us are used to in this world is conditional, generic that is “I will love you, case if you will love me; but if you don’t, then I won’t,” or “If you quit loving me, I will quit loving you.” This kind of conditional love is not the kind of love God has for us; neither is it what He wants us to have for others. In fact He made a new commandment with it in mind:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” John 13:34
Before I go on to tell of this “Teachable Moment,” I am compelled to first mention the greatest unconditional loving act of all time – that being when God Himself let His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, go to the cross on our behalf. He did this so that our sins could be forgiven and taken care of for all time. This event is recorded in the book of John, one of the most quoted passages. Sad to say, one of the most ignored passages as well! I hope you haven’t ignored it; your life here on earth and beyond depends on it!
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God sent not the Son into the world to judge the world; but that the world should be saved through him. He that believeth on him is not judged: he that believeth not hath been judged already, because he hath not believed on the name of the only begotten Son of God. John 3:16-18
So that being said, let me get to the illustration that greatly improved my family’s perspective on several aspects of God’s unconditional love.
When my son and daughter were elementary school age, they both wanted a pet very badly. Finally, one Christmas my wife Myrna and I relented and took the pet plunge. We bought a little dog we named Holly. She was a cute little Lhasa Apso with a fairly good temperament
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. Holly was a lot of work for us at first. The kids promised to help, but you can pretty well guess who took care of her most of the time…Myrna, of course. Regardless of how much time each of us put in with Holly, we all learned to genuinely love her during the process. At the same time, we gained a lot from her. Especially in regard to understanding the nature of unconditional love; the same love God gave to each of us. For instance, everyday when we arrived home from school, she would greet us with incredible enthusiasm and joy as if we had been separated for years. The Scripture teaches that God has a similar attitude toward us each day.
“Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in my love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” John 15:9-11
Another illustration of this love would be when Holly did things not becoming of the perfect dog we wished her to be, requiring us to enact discipline from time to time. You can imagine what some of those things might be with a dog. Yet, no matter how many times we corrected her, Holly always forgave us and was quick to forget each reprimand or rebuke. In a similar way, God was forgiving and forgetting with each of us in the McClain family. No matter what we did, or how many times we did something wrong or selfish, God forgave us and put it in the past. The following is written confirmation of such a love as presented in the Old and New Testament.
As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our shortcomings and sins from us. Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who respect Him. For the Lord knows our frame. Psalm 103:12-14
The Lord declares, “I will forgive your iniquity, and your sin I will remember no more.” Jeremiah 31:34
“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account.” Roman 4:7-8
A final example of the parallels between God’s love and Holly’s love was demonstrated when we were all at home. Holly would follow us everywhere; all she wanted to do was be where we were. She did this because she loved us and liked being as close to us as possible. In a similar way, our family found that God was like this to each one us. In fact God promised each one of us, as He stated in His Word, that He would never leave or forsake us – not ever! And you know what? He has kept the promise as each of us can attest.
For He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.” Hebrews 3:5
“…and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” Matthew 28:20
Holly is gone now. She died a number of years ago. During her last days on earth she became very , listless, and incurable. My wife and I struggled over the decision to have her “put to sleep,” but it was something we had to do for her sake. When we took her to the vet, neither Myrna nor I left her side until she was gone.
Holly will always remain in our collection of memories, but perhaps our greatest remembrance of her is how she unconditionally loved each one of us…just as God does.
If you have a pet, spend an evening with that pet and your children. Have your children jot down what loving characteristics your pet represents as a creation of God. Find Scriptures to support each characteristic. If you do not have a pet, go to a park where you can observe a dog and his owner, preferably an owner who has his children. Complete the assignment in the same way. Remind your children that God creates everything with a purpose. If you look closely, you will see a part of Him in that creation.