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) 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, 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.
 http://www.logoslibrary.org/tertullian/apology/39.html Translated by S. Thelwall
 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.