I’ve always loved this old Calvin and Hobbes strip:
“Lowering your expectations until they are already met.” It’s supposed to be funny of course, but I think it is remarkably true. Some may take it as snide – drawing attention to someones shortcomings, but I think this makes for an excellent definition of unconditional love.
Lower your expectations until they are already met. Give up your demands on the other person until you love them just as they are right now. If that person changes – if they get old on you, warm up to you, betray you, forget about you – whatever. Your demands of them drop away until grace has swallowed them up, swallowed you up, swallowed your relationship up whole.
This is what Christ did for us. While we hated him and disregarded him, he died for us. He didn’t expect us to get our act together or reciprocate some of his love. He lowered himself to the point where all of that was already met. With regards to our relationship with the Father, he stepped in and covered that for us in its entirety.
What are your expectations of a responsible parent toward a baby? A heck of a lot. They must watch out for them every minute, feed them, change them, teach them, on and on. What is the expectation for the baby? Must they show remarkable kindness and unselfish understanding toward the parent? Of course not. They don’t do jack squat. Not a thing. You hope they don’t cry all day long, but that is a desire for reciprocated love. Your love as the parent is unmoving. Your demand of them is unbelievably low.
This sort of love is the only way to forgive someone for something truly terrible. It is modeled on God’s love for us. It is completely unilateral. It is arbitrary. It does not depend on the other person’s response or even knowledge of the love. It is unmediated. It is unstoppable.
Friendship and affection are other things sometimes implied in the word “love”, but I am talking about the divine unconditional variety. Having high expectations of ourselves, when unchecked by grace, is a crushing burden. Putting this burden on others is all law and no love. Open your hands. Lower your expectations. Let go. Perhaps they may even lower their expectations of you too. Then you can rejoice at what comes spontaneously!
Luther said that the end of the law is the beginning of freedom. Well, the end of expectations is the beginning of love. With all the expectations intact, it is just desire.