Keeping Accounts

In our relationships with others we usually keep some sort of mental
tally as to what we owe others and what is owed to us. We know who is
in good standing with who, etc. It's the way we work. Black marks and
gold stars on each person's record.

And
usually, we give more to people with a better record. And this is quite
natural. If someone lies to us, it will be much harder to trust them
again. But even think about the people close to you. We say there are
people who we love unconditionally, but do we really? What would happen
if this person betrayed us? Or if they consistently didn't live up to
our expectations? Usually, human love is conditional, no matter how it
appears and/or feels.

And it all comes down to that system of checks and balances that we keep for each person in our heads.

Does
God really work the same way, or are we projecting our worldly system
of love onto him? Does he keep a checklist of all of our sins and good
deeds, just as we do for others? Does he mentally place people in
in-groups and out-groups based on their actions like we do?

To
make us ask for forgiveness from one particular sin…doesn't that
imply that there is a black mark that we need to erase? Or is that not
how it works?

If God's love is truly unconditional, then it is
beyond account keeping. It has no conditions. Because of this, I really
don't think the idea of each sin being a black mark on our permanent
record until we say we're sorry is a very helpful model. It's our
system, not God's.

If that is true, what might God's love
(unconditional love) look like? What would it look like if we were to
have it in our own relationships? Is this even desirable, or do we
need to keep accounts? Is it necessary that humans not love
unconditionally like God? Why or why not?

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  1. those are some good questions. i've thought about this before, and what it means, or what it looks like to love someone unconditionally. one thing i keep coming back to is the question as to our own safety and protection. is loving someone less a means of protecting ourselves from being hurt the same way more than once? should we protect ourselves? is it possible to keep loving with the same strength and fortitude, but still protect yourself from harm?but yeah, the consideration of God's unconditional love. it's something we can't possibly fathom. and i agree, i believe that we do try to fit God into our own limitations just so we can understand him. i've long thought that we need to let go of that and allow him to be (in our minds) bigger than our understanding. do we really need to comprehend everything, especially if it makes God no better than us?

  2. Somehow, I don't agree with this analysis of how humans work. It's the way in which people who are brought up in teachings of capitalism may see the world and understand their relationships, but it is not the way in which humans – as a species – sees the same world.What would an unconditional love in humanity look like? It would look like Mohandas Gandhi, whose balanced his love for his nation and mankind through non-violent resistance that led to the British leaving India. It would look like Nelson Mandela, who finally reversed the overt policy of apartheid in South Africa and even won the hearts of his opponents. It would look like Mother Teresa, who gave her everything to touch the "untouchables" of India.These three are but a tiny drop of what unconditional love would look like in the frame of humanity. Personally, I don't believe in record keeping – why bother? Admittedly, I know it's important to others, so I make sure I keep track of what I owe others – but I would never keep track of what others "owe" me because I don't see why they should owe me anything. In that way, although we may not be able to control what we owe others, we can certainly control what others owe us – we can constantly keep that balance at zero.Certainly, this makes one look exposed to exploitation, but that's the point. Anyone can offer unconditional love as doing so simply means that they are offering love that always ensures the protection and soundness of others, not the self. Single parents who struggle to make ends meet for their children, mothers in Kenya who walk for an entire day to bring their sick children to a clinic, soldiers who use themselves as shields to save their comrades, citizens who suppress fear and return to disaster sites to save the injured, and even dogs that defend their owners in the face of an attack… Are these not different forms of love unconditional? Why then do we question the human (and indeed animal) capability to exhibit such love?Certainly, we should not apply a human system of thought in the understanding of God's realm – but to be fair, we should not apply an untested system of limits on the immense wealth of all human potential either.

  3. It isn't capitalism- or rather, that's not the whole of it. The black/gold marks on records are expectations of a different sort. If you have stolen a lot of things from me in the past, I expect you to steal from me the way I expect my pencil to fall downward when I let go of it. The situations where people are good or bad to us is a reference we use to understand the events around us. this kind of record keeping is one of the main ways we understand other human beings. If you are usually good to me, but suddenly aren't, something has changed for you. Sudden changes in behavior are only noticed because of memory, and can only be appreiciated by people who can see how they try to change the black marks they have earned from others. It's also a way of communicating. Humans behave in an extremely pavlovian manner. what would happen if we didn't get a black mark with people around us when we say, farted noisily? We get black marks in peoples books when we do so, but I personaly would rather live in a world where certian types of behavior was discouraged. If nothing we did affected how others related to us, how would we learn? Say what you will about capitalism, it is a method of getting people to do work, and I like most of the results. We have private accounts with people, and those accounts motivate us to do things. How much wonderful poetry is created is created in an attempt to influence people's thinking about us? School to- I think a good amount of students would stay just to learn, but classroom standerds might slip, and anyone who has seen a high school lunchroom WITH rules enforced by blackmarks will recognize the riot in the making that might be. Blackmarks are neccicary for motivation, but more than that- for basic communication. How much could you say without the phrases "I like that" and "I don't like that"? But there is a circumstance where poeple are given an unlimited account to us.Love.Would fewer men would raise roses if we didn't get kisses for them? I think we would. How many people have said "I would die for her" that would take it back if their love wasn't reciprocated? The number of unrequited adulescents that pine for moments of conversation with some cute girl seem to be saying "I don't care if she doesn't care about me, I don't care if she doesn't even know me- She doesn't need to. I don't need some kind of payment for it." Well, I guess they'd like to see her happy, to observe the results of their efforts. But is that a mark, or isn't it? And on who?

  4. I think I first truly tasted unconditional love from having kids. So here are a few thoughts…When you have kids, you realize early on that you don't have the control over their behavior you thought you'd have prior to having them. And this realization hits early because kids start attempting to enforce their will over their parents very early on – even before two!Somewhere along the line, we were taught that in this battle of the wills, it is the parent's will that should always win out. But honestly, kids are extremely intelligent and know they have every bit as strong of will as the parent. The only real way to win at the battle of the wills is to put something even more powerful than mere human will on your side. Saying something like – "If you don't share your crayons with your little sister, God is going to be very angry" is amazingly effective. And institutions control adults in the same way (if not through God then through some other all-powerful mechanims.). I think unconditional love requires the recognition that there is only one will and we all share it. The battle of the wills is a matter of egoic pride and power and is not about love at all. After all, why in the world would a parent's will be more important than a child's will? People will use the argument that if it is a kid's will to run out in a busy street then the parents will to keep the child safe is more important. But that's not really a matter of a battle of will. The parent clearly has a broader view than the child and is exercising compassion – not egoic will. The child is not willing death, after all. He just wants to act on an impulse. In the case of not sharing his caryons with his sister, he is willing control over what is his. Certainly the parent can understand where it is the child is coming from and work from that space rather than entering into a battle of wills and invoking the almighty for added support.Having kids seriously challenges all notions of love. There are parents who would truly disown their child if they were betrayed by them. But I think most of us would go on loving our children as intensely as we always have, even if the apology never came. So it makes no sense whatsoever to think God would do otherwise. But love is not a battle of the wills so loving a child who has betrayed us does not mean that we have allowed their will "to win". It means that we have managed to transcend the battle. We can come at the situation with compassion rather than egoic pride – which may mean we have to refuse help, etc. (Because that battle of the will shows up in really sneaky ways. For example, becoming a doormat and letting people take advantage of you is really nothing more than an attempt to control others. It's still a matter of egoic will and not love at all.)

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