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Loved As Is: God’s Unconditional Embrace

In Waiting for God, Simone Weil poignantly notes, “I long to know [others] so as to love them just as they are. For if I do not love them as they are, it will not be they whom I love, and my love will be unreal.

Throughout my life in the church, I’ve been introduced to and shared teachings about God’s unconditional love. We memorize, “For God so love the world,” and sing “Just as I am, without one plea.” Yet the unspoken message of the church can sometimes tell a different story.

Consider how many of us perceive a god who seems eternally disappointed. We’ve lived like a child seeking parental approval by trying make the all-star team or the dean’s list. This suggests a belief that God cherishes an idealized version of us, rather than who we truly are

This notion of love for a potential self, which neither you nor I embody, is not genuine love. It is “unreal”—as Simone Weil would argue.

Loving other

The Gospels offer numerous accounts of Jesus’s authentic love for people just as they are. His acceptance made many uncomfortable.

Remember Zacchaeus, a “ruler among tax collectors” (Luke 19:1-10), considered a traitor to his. If Jesus’s love was conditional on potential, at what point was Zacchaeus deemed worthy? When he climbed the tree? When he vowed to give to the poor and repay those he cheated? Or did Jesus love him unconditionally from the moment he saw him?

Withholding love

There’s a saying in some corners of the church that goes something like this…

God loves you just as you are but too much to leave you that way.

While intended to speak to transformative love, it’s often heard as veiled way of saying God loves who we could become, not who we are. Simone Weil’s insights remind us that love aimed at potential is not true love.

This distinction between real and perceived love might explain why many feel unloved by the church or the God it represents.

Core to my faith

The belief that Jesus loves us exactly as we is central to my faith. The struggle to meet the expectations of parents, bosses, congregations, and societal ideals is all too common.

What’s truly remarkable and transformative about God’s grace and love is its ability to accept us as we are. This is the essence of the new commandment Jesus gave us: “Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other” (John 13:34, CEB).

That, for me, is real love.

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