Love, Only For The Sake of Love

’See,’ they say, ‘how they love one another,’ for themselves are animated by mutual hatred.”

I’ve been kicking around an idea for some time and I want to kick it around a little in public. The idea is simple, perhaps self-evident, that if there is such a thing as unconditional love then it might best be described as love for love’s sake.  The blinding flash of the obvious perhaps, and nothing too profound but I need to think it out loud.

It seems most often when I hear or read anything about unconditional love it is assumed that it is in some way a religious concept.  Many seem to believe that the practice of unconditional love, even the capacity for it is available only by subscribing to a particular belief system and doctrinal creed, that it is rooted in God, presumably their own God.  It has been appropriated into Christian theology.  Thus it follows it would seem, that anyone not sharing belief in that God does not have access to the highest form and practice of love.  It’s an ancient idea.  Even Tertullian in the 2nd Century wrote; “But it is mainly the deeds of a love so noble that lead many to put a brand upon us. ‘See,’ they say, ‘how they love one another,’ for themselves are animated by mutual hatred.” (Apology 39)[1]  If only it were so.

The particular word Evangelicals use when describing unconditional love is the Greek word agape.  It appears in the Bible, but it also appears in negative connotations (John 3:10, 2 Tim 4:10 and other places).  I don’t want to take on theology, linguistics or psycho-social theories of love here.  There are greater minds than mine who have written on all that extensively and who have defined love in many different ways. There is much to say by and by.

I think unconditional love is simply love for love’s sake.  There is no reward (and often it feels more like suffering) past knowing that we have done our best at struggling to fulfill our highest calling as humans, that we have loved.  We do not love because God did anything to us or for us, quickened or activated us in any way, it is not for His approval, it is not due to any sense that we “ought” love, rooted in obedience, that God requires it of us, that it is His call to us, or because “He first loved us.” It is love for love’s sake and that’s all.  Not only is there no reason to invoke anything supernatural[2],  there is no room for anything supernatural! While people may hold on to all that other stuff, it seems to me that anything other than love for the sake of love is; well, conditional and predicated on a whole bunch of other things.

Drawing at the top by Savanna Taylor.  The note is not.  I just found it out there on some web site somewhere.


[2] I acknowledge that people of all or no faiths and walks of life struggle with becoming more loving.  We all choose different paths to arrive at that end.  This is not to say that there is no place for an inner practice, faith-based or not, in the cultivation of personal love because I think there is, but that it is or should be subordinate to love.  Faith is only a means to the highest human end; love only for the sake of love, and often in my opinion not a very good one, counterproductive and often working against love when anything including doctrine and tradition become more important than love for the sake of love.

8 thoughts on “Love, Only For The Sake of Love

  1. I have known many forms of “Love” on this earth, and have found none of them to be truly enduring and pure; most are tainted by self-interest, and tend to wither when that self-interest is no longer being appeased.

    So I finally came to stake my trust on the purest, most selfless Love I have ever known: the love of a God Who willingly took on the form of my human flesh in order to suffer and die for me. There is no greater love than this, that He has torn open the way to Heaven so we might freely enter and enjoy His love and friendship forever! This is a greater love than mother, father, sister, brother, friend, lover, mate or child. Or religion!

    If anyone else can find lasting happiness and love in other things, good for them; but I personally failed to do so. Everything else seems to eventually crumble, die, forget and fade; but the Cross of Christ was God Himself loving and offering Himself to me, to ALL of us, personally, directly, eternally, unconditionally! Calvary is the love of God for all mankind. What more would you have Him do than He has already done to prove His love for you? God has allowed Himself to be scorned, tortured and murdered by idiots for our sakes (and even FOR the idiots!) when He could have easily freed Himself and destroyed them; why ignore and cast aside such patience, kindness and love? Why turn away from such a God? I don’t get it. Because I can find no love greater than this in the universe. Certainly the “Void” of Zen and other interesting but hollow philosophies has no love; and Krishna did not die for me, nor did Buddha, Mohammed, Moses, Mary, the Pope or anyone else… only Jesus.

    That’s good enough for me.

    • Thanks for reading, Charles.

      First, your assumption is that someone had to die for you in the first place. Presumably that follows from your belief that this most “truly enduring and pure” love comes from a God who also created a scenario where you are condemned to eternal torment if you do not assent to his requirement for blood sacrifice for living the way that he created us to live in the first place. And you don’t get why people would turn away from that plainly awful and hateful love-construct? That’s what I don’t get.

  2. Could it be that we have the ability and capacity to love because we were made in God’s image? So regardless of whether or not someone has a faith system, he or she is still able to love and be loved simply because it was and is a gift that the Creator was genrous enough to empart to all man kind.

    • First, of course that’s the religious assertion. Do you have any evidence to offer for that view? Second, which version of “Creator” do you mean? And third, even if I concede the point, the idea of unconditional love, even if it is imparted to us by a creator, is STILL love for love’s sake and must exist apart from anything else. Just like I don’t need to invoke the idea of anything supernatural for air and breathing, I don’t need to invoke it for love. Sure, maybe god created air and breathing. But that’s not required to breathe and if anyone said I had to have some correct belief system to breathe, I’d say they were also adding unnecessary variables and complicating things. It simply is not necessary and often gets in the way. Thanks for reading.

  3. Always enjoy reading your ponderings.

    Following up on your last comment…

    It’s true that whether it be love or breathing, a person need not ascribe such things to any creator. But the mere presence of something such intriguing as love or oxygen (among many other things) might cause someone to wonder, “Where did these things come from?” For me, the mere presence of order, design and function cause me to ask questions about creation. Love, stored up in the chemical mish-mash known as a human being is a wonderful, mysterious thing. (Hence the seemingly endless amount of songs to which love is devoted!)

    BTW, I agree with you that the idea that only an evangelical believer can exercise or express unconditional love is a fallacy, proven to be wrong time and time again. I’ve seen many amazing demonstrations of selfless, loving sacrifice by people who are not of any faith system.

    Honestly, the unconditional love described in biblical texts is something I know very little of. I am so full of prejudice and selfishness. Perhaps there are flashes when I really don’t try to figure out what I’ll get by giving love to another. But it is an ideal worth spending an entire life pursuing!

    Just some ramblings for a Thursday afternoon…

  4. The first time I heard the words “unconditional love ” was in an Al anon meeting. It took years before I could understand what the literature was implying…how to love someone despite their flaws and hurtful actions. To love for loves sake. If done , peace is achieved where there was none.

  5. Love for the sake of Love. I love it. I think it is something we are all capable of but view enter the right state of mind in which we know or want to achieve it, therefore sometimes people settle for a second best love, ‘I Love Because…’. I think We find this in the religious world but I also think we find it in the world at large.

    In fact, if I may, in my understanding of my belief as a follower of Jesus and even in my understanding from reading the Qur’ran, that both religions express that this is the type of love we are to accomplish. Love for the sake of Love. It merely just gives a basis of where Love comes from as far as a creative state. Many naturalists even have a hard time explaining where the feeling, emotion and act of love would originate from a animalistic background. But I am not debating the ‘beginning’ of such a feeling, emotion and act, but rather saying I believe religion wants us to reach a place where we love for the sake of loving others. I think there are moral standards throughout the holy books that point to this, but may seem contradictory at times.

    However, this is not something all people can concept, grasp or achieve (based on their own focus not a impossibility). I think religion and the world at large allows for ‘secondary love reasons’ which we find still a type of love, and if it is a love that is lived out with integrity and true to itself is a unquenchable quest to love, care and show compassion. Your ‘drive’ is to create and share love, but realize not everyone will reach it in the way, seek it in the way or want it in the same way you want it, seek it or desire it. Even someone with similar beliefs to you, will differ in their love somehow. However, if the quest is to love….we must accept and allow others to be illustrated and energerized with love by secondary means. I love because my husband Loves me, I love because my creator loves me, I love because I wasn’t loved, I love because Jesus (or someone) died for me in some matter…..

    Love in the Bible was not only the first concept (God, Man, Man, Eve, Man Creation) but also a Consistant theme through some bloodiness of people who didn’t grasp it in their brokenness. Jesus even reminds his followers, there are no greater commandments then to LOVE God and LOVE Each other. He then said, all of the teachings of our faith HANG on this.

    I love because I experienced Love, not as a command or a beleif. Love comes in many forms and through many situations. I want everyone to love each other and lay down their violence, their weapons, their hate………and if they have to love because someone illustrated it for them, or because told them too – that works for me too. The world would be a better place if we loved to any capacity we can.

    I believe Love is contagious in it’s purest form. Weather that be a love influenced because of my faith and originating with who I believe created it or because someone respects me…..I believe it is honorable. So maybe we can work on helping people make love contagious and discover love inside themselves. Even those who do it out of command or desire to please God, let us encourage them not to ‘transplant that love’ for manifest it.

  6. I have a question; is unconditional love even a good thing? Perhaps it is, generically speaking. Cultivating compassion, empathy, and the desire not to harm others is a positive and healthy thing. I guess that could be what you mean by love for love’s sake. But, in personal relationships, I question whether unconditional love should ever be on offer. To me, that has the potential to become a recipe for sadomasochistic dysfunction.

    This post seems to assume at the outset that unconditional love is a good thing. I think that assertion needs to be demonstrated. I can think of a lot of ways, especially in interpersonal relationships, where unconditional love, however defined, is a negative.

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