I think the key here is something a friend taught me: Love without expectation that you will be loved in return. You cannot control other people and make them love you, so don't even try. All you CAN do is love them regardless of what they do to you.
Yes, I agree with that. When I say "Is it right to expect
another human being to love me unconditionally regardless of how badly or cruelly I treat him or her?", I don't mean that I'm expecting that love as I would expect a cashier to give me change after I've paid for an item at the store. By expect
I mean as a matter of what the person is obligated
Please don't get me wrong. Again, Christ's all-consuming, all-forgiving love is the ideal and yes, we are to demonstrate His love wherever and whenever possible. But since we live in a fallen world and not everyone is a believer, before there can be an ideal there has to be a minimum standard. And all I'm saying is that if I treat someone badly or cruelly, it's hard to infer that they should then love me in return. Christ does that because He is God; but this is extraordinarily difficult for average people to do, and I do not judge those who would not or cannot love someone who serially engages in cruelty or evil.
Consider this: if love is truly "unconditional," then how could God who loves people unconditionally tell them to get lost? Jesus said, many will come to Me and say, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy, and do miracles in Your name?" And He will say unto them, "I never knew you. Depart from me, ye who work iniquity.
" (Matt. 7:22-23). So, that's a tough theological nut to crack, unless God's love is not "unconditional" in the colloquial
way we use and understand that term: loving someone regardless of how they act.
Some refinement of "unconditional love" may be needed. Surely, there are perspectives
through which God's love can been seen as "unconditional." St. Paul does say nothing
can separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8:38-39), not demons, angels, or anything in this world or the next... but notice that the one thing St. Paul does not
include in his litany of those things is... ourselves
I can separate myself from God's love if I engage in cruelty or evil, just as Israel separated herself from God's love when she engaged in evil. God cannot force someone to love or obey Him, and people can CHOOSE to walk away from His love. But because of His infinite mercy, God always reached out to Israel, and Christ always reaches out to us: He continually calls us back to Himself. Perhaps it's more accurate to say that God's mercy
, rather than His love, is unconditional.
Grace to all