I remember as a college kid hearing a talk given in a Campus Crusade for Christ rally entitled, “If, Because of, or In Spite of Love”. The question proposed in this speech was, should we love each other “if”, “because of”, or “in spite of.”
“I love you if” is built on conditions and suppositions. In the college atmosphere, the example used to describe the “if love” had sexual overtones. A young man inserts conditions into his relationship with a girl. “I love you ‘if’ you give me what I need…’if’ you love me you would do it.” The “if” love is based on my need. A question that should be asked is, “Am I basing my relationship with my spouse, my kids, my relatives, my friends, and others on ‘if’s’?” In marriage mentoring sessions, often my wife and I would hear one of the spouses say, “I made this condition clear from the beginning of our relationship.” Relationships built on conditions or suppositions are “sinking sand.” The foundation will not last. 1 John 2:16 calls this “the lust of the flesh.”
“I love you because of” is built on achievement, status, performance, and stipulations. It is love based on expectations. Performance based relationships seemingly work for a while until something happens that gets you off track from the status that you expected. It could be a loss of a job, not able to live in the house or drive the cars you expected, a lack of advancement in employment, a kid not achieving at levels that you expected, an illness or injury that handicaps performance, etc. Be careful here, you may be subtly requiring certain metrics and setting stipulations that are based on performance not love. The “because of love” is called “the lust of the eye…the pride of life” in 1 John 2:16. True forgiveness, acceptance and peace are rarely experienced in this environment.
“In spite of” love is Christ’s agape love. It is an unconditional love. It is not based on the recipient but on the character of the lover. I love you and will continue to love you, period.
- Ephesians 4:32 describes this love, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
- Romans 15:7 expresses it this way, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.”
- Philippians 2:3&4 exclaims “in spite of” love as “Doing nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
- How does “in spite of” love speak to each other? Ephesians 4:29 tells us, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
- There is no fear within the sphere of “in spite of” love. 1 John 4:18 is clear about this, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” Without fear, “In spite of” love places you in an environment that facilitates growth and life.
It is time for us start loving as Jesus loves. It is the “in spite of love” which is not based on the one loved but the character of the one who loves.