Daniel Kiewel is a member of CrossPoint Church in Great Bend, a faith-based blogger and certified distance-running coach. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Harsh words can infect the human heart.
One seemingly innocent two-letter word, though, may be more destructive than any other - “If”.
According to the Cambridge Online Dictionary the word is, “used to say that a particular thing can or will happen when, only when, or after something else happens or becomes true.” In other words, “if” is used to attach conditions to things - in particular, beliefs and actions.
When trying to plan an activity around circumstances like unpredictable Kansas weather, “if” is not such a dangerous word.
When one begins attaching “if” to love for others, though, this two-letter word becomes a stealthy parasite that eats away at a person’s heart.
The reason it is so treacherous is because this is so easy to do.
The heart’s tendency is to attach conditions to its feelings toward, and interactions with, other people. For example:
“I will talk to them if…”
“I will serve them if…”
“I will love them if…”
“I will forgive them if…”
And usually the condition one connects to these statement is based solely upon how the other person thinks or behaves. If the recipient’s actions or ideals do not line up or measure up properly to the giver’s own standards, then the love is not shared.
The conditions attached to that love become stricter when the recipient has wounded the giver’s heart personally. The weight of the grudge, after all, makes the “if” deadlier as it pulls the giver’s heart down with it.
“If” will consume hearts and relationships from the inside out. The conditions put on love cause people to see others in comparison to themselves and others, rather than through the eyes of God.
There are no “ifs” however, in the love Christ demonstrated for us.
See, Jesus did not climb the hill of Calvary based on any of our merits. He did not take the nails and the crown of thorns because of any of our spectacular deeds. If His blood was contingent on our records, we would all fall hopelessly short.
But this is the magnificence of grace.
Grace is a love truly without condition.
Because of His grace, we are defined by His sacrifice rather than our failures.
Because of grace, we are extended forgiveness, rather than condemnation.
Because of grace, He sees us not for the mess we have made of ourselves, but the masterpieces He created us to be.
Therefore, as Christians, we are to love as Christ first loved us – completely without condition.
Paul writes in Ephesians, “Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God (Eph. 5:2).”
I will love. I will serve. I will forgive.
No strings attached.
Because there are no “ifs” in grace.