We do not really believe in unconditional love. We may believe that unconditional love is theoretically possible, but, if it does exist, it is only for some mythical perfect version of ourselves of which we continue to fall short. The truth is that we find it hard to love and accept ourselves with all our short-comings. We presume because we find ourselves to be less than lovable, that God also does the same. This idea is reinforced by judgmental faith communities.
As George Bernard Shaw once said – God made us in God’s image and we have been returning the favour ever since. This is absolutely true, we do create God in our own image, but this human-patterned version of God is a gross distortion of the reality. If unconditional love does exist, it must be unconditional. God must love us regardless of what we do. God must love us as we are today, with all the complexity and imperfection and failure that we carry. God must love us, even when we are disappointed in ourselves, even when we find it almost impossible to face ourselves, let alone love ourselves. This is not to suggest that God may not be disappointed by some of the things we choose, or that God may not experience profound sadness at some of ways we treat each other. But, God loves us nonetheless. The gospels are littered with examples of Jesus acting in precisely this way – choosing to engage in a caring and loving manner with those who, through their actions or lifestyle, have been found wanting by the faith community.
This is not to say that sin in not real or is not problematic. It is not to say that we don’t need to responsibility for the things we do which are less than loving. But we will get much further we allow ourselves to be loved. When we do catch glimpses of the love of God, which encompasses the whole of our being – the bits we celebrate and the bits we would rather hide – it enables us to see that none of us is wholly good or wholly bad. We all sit somewhere along that continuum. That realisation and acknowledgement is the first step towards real compassion. Both for ourselves and for others.