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Discovering God's Kingdom – Growing the Church

Wednesday 22 April

Unconditional Love

At this time, when many are self-isolating, many have no option but to accept the help of others. I am not sure if it is a “British” thing but why do we so often feel embarrassed and reluctant about asking for or accepting help from others – when we would willingly help someone should they need our help?

One of the often quoted verses in the Bible is “You shall love your neighbour as yourself”, but who is our neighbour and how will we love our neighbour if we do not love ourselves and do not consider ourselves “worthy” of their love?

I am quite sure that if one of your family, friends or neighbours asked you to do them a favour that you would be happy to do whatever it was. Perhaps pick up something from the shops, mind the children for a couple of minutes (or hours), give someone a lift to the shops/doctor/hospital/station etc. So if we are happy to do something for someone else, what makes it so hard to ask others for help?

When I began training to be a Priest I found myself without a home to call my own. A friend and neighbour had offered me a bed in her house, but then she unexpectedly had someone else stay with her and there was literally “no room at the Inn.” Then a couple, whom I hardly knew, offered to give me a room in their house, for as long as I needed one. I felt very awkward and certainly didn’t want to ”bother them”, and my immediate reaction was to say “no thank you”, but after a lot of discussion and persuasion, I very gratefully accepted their offer. 

Their hospitality and generosity totally overwhelmed me. Margaret, who is now one of my very best friends, took me to one side and said: ”We just want to make one thing clear, you are our friend and this is now your home, so please do what you want and come and go as you please”, and with that she handed me a key to the front door, a key that I still have.

Could I ever repay them for their kind and generous hospitality – no I can’t, and they wouldn’t want me to try, because part of their “package” was and still is their total support and unconditional love. Would I do the same for them, absolutely! It would give me the greatest pleasure to help them if they ever needed my help, so why should we deprive others of experiencing that same pleasure by not asking others for their help?

Perhaps it is the proverbial chicken-and-egg problem. We begin by loving our neighbour as best as we are able. Then, when we are loved in return, we learn a deeper love of ourselves, which in turn enables us to love better in return, and the love spirals outward.  

So as well as loving your neighbour, love yourself as well, and allow your “neighbour”, whoever it may be, the pleasure of helping and loving you. Because remember,  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” – now that is unconditional love.

Yours in Christ