Can Love Be Mutual?

In 2013 when I was in school, I had a debate with a professor about the mutuality of Christian love. Then, I argued that Christian love is not mutual. I said that the Bible never taught that Christian love should be mutual. I argued that we Christians must love others unconditionally. I believed so firmly until recently. I had never thought I was wrong to believe Christian love should not be mutual.

Recently, I got to think about that again. Then I realized that Christian love could be mutual or, furthermore, should be reciprocal in a sense. It is because genuine Christian love would never force anyone. In other words, if a person doesn’t want to receive love, the Christian should wait patiently, praying in hope, for the person to open his heart. When people don’t like to receive love from us, if Christians insist on showing our love to them, our love may annoy or upset them. If we insist on showing our love for them while they don’t recognize our love as genuine love while they don’t regard our love as love, they may feel we force or stalk them.

That is not how God loves us. He gave us free will to choose to receive his mercy and grace. God never forces us to receive his mercy and grace, even though He knows we need His mercy and grace. God doesn’t force His love and mercy on us because He truly loves us. Because he loves us, he waits for us until we open our hearts to His mercy and grace. He doesn’t ignore our freedom and force us to receive His love. For instance, in the parable of the prodigal son, the father gave his youngest son what he wanted to get from him and let him go wherever he wanted. The father never attempted to force the son not to do what he wanted to do but to stay with him, receiving and enjoying his love and care.

Thus, Christian love is mutual in this sense. However, I am not saying that we are to love only as much as others love us. What I mean by the mutuality of Christian love is that we must adjust the expression of our love according to the openness of others to us. We surely should be willing to give our whole love to them. However, if they don’t want to receive our love for any reason, we shouldn’t force them to. We must wait for them until they open to us, loving them to the degree they are open to us. So what we do is offer them our whole love. And they have their choice to receive our love, how much, or not. Disrespecting freedom of choice cannot be Christian love. That is not how God loved us.

God loved us and set forth his son as the propitiation for our sins. We could have accepted His love earlier. Nevertheless, many of us didn’t open our hearts as early as we heard the gospel. However, God never forced us to open our hearts to receive his love, grace, and mercy. Instead, he patiently waited for us to reach the point of repentance (cf. Romans 2:4). His patience is out of love (1 Corinthians 13:4). His patience was the greatest love for us, and we have to love others in the same way. Therefore, in this sense, genuine and mature Christian love is mutual.


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