What does it mean to love and be loved?

There are lots of clues in the New Testament and the Hebrew Bible on how to answer this question. Jesus calls us into relationship with many references to love: love of God, love of neighbor, to love as he loved us, to love those in need as a means of loving him. He speaks to Peter after the resurrection and asks him three times if Peter loves him, each time with a different emphasis on the word love. Jesus uses parables to show how this love works: how the shepherd goes out to find the one lost sheep; how the Good Samaritan helps the wounded traveler. If we study these examples, look carefully at our lives, especially our experiences of loving and being loved, and think through questions about love at a deep level, we will begin to see and understand the following three things about God's love: 

God's love is unconditioned. I'm not talking about unconditional here, that's next. Unconditioned means it is pure, without anything attached to it, such that when we receive it we are not predisposed in any way by that love that limits our freedom. We are made from God's love and it holds us.

God's love is unconditional. That means that there are no external requirements we have to meet in order to receive God's love or participate in God's love. We do not have to follow any rules or fulfill any unstated promises. We can even turn away from God with complete freedom. We can receive this love and live within its care for eternity. There is no limit to our capacity to receive this love.

God's unconditioned and unconditional love are Grace.

This love is our life and the truth of everything within which we live, this love and truth are the fabric of the universe, from the most ethereal and numinous to the most mundane and material. We have the freedom to choose how to live within this continuous process called life, love and truth. 

There are no guarantees in this process of living we call life. We may experience pain, suffering, happiness, sadness, death, anger, fear, all kinds of emotional highs and lows. Our choices make a difference, but our choices primarily matter in how we respond to people and to events in our life that happen to us like aging, illness, material well-being, injustice, forgiveness, or lack of forgiveness. We produce our own suffering. No matter how much we would like to blame the external circumstances of our lives for our pain or failures, our happiness or joy, in the end it is our internal sense of who we are and our understanding of our purpose as human beings that determines our destiny. 

There are two primary ways in which we experience the unconditional and unconditioned love of God and become channels of God's love. Here they are:

When we choose to actively give unconditional love. We can ask ourselves as we enter into any relationship, "How do I express unconditional love in this relationship?"

When we understand that love is expressed through our work and the fulfillment of our purpose. 

I can't begin to explain to you the meaningful changes that will occur in your life if you learn how to love unconditionally and approach your relationships and your work as an expression of love. The reason is that this sets in motion a process that is unique to every individual. How great it is if we can hold that kind of love for each other, for our families, our friends, our adversaries, for the world!

This is not an invitation to be a doormat, or disregard the consequences of things we know that do not serve us like aggression, oppression, abuse, etc. We do have to learn that love has discernment, love learns how to choose for our own well-being and for the well-bering of those we care for, but for the moment, just think about what living this kind of love could mean for you, for me, for all of us. Can we imagine the potential, the possibility?