Archive for the 'Book of Malachi' Category

Non-Mutual Love

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

Today’s scripture: Malachi 1:6-10 (ESV-text and audio) (KJV) (The Message)

As you read, consider: What might God be saying to me? Summarize your thoughts in a sentence or two.

My thoughts (Keith Phillips):

I have a friend whom I love very much. Unfortunately, it’s not mutual; he once referred to himself as my “unrequited love.” When I see something that I think he’d like (and, he likes really nice things), I have to restrain myself not to buy it for him, or I, too often, end up giving him yet another present. I just want to be generous with him. And to be fair, he has given me so much, although intangibly.

He’s the one person, in addition to my children, whom I believe I love unconditionally; and sometimes, quite frankly, the relationship reminds me of the one between Hosea and his harlot wife, and its analogous relationship between God and God’s people. My, how I wish the relationship were mutual! But it’s not, and it won’t be.

That’s what makes my reading of this passage from Malachi so scary. I like Hosea who takes his distracted wife back time and time again. That’s what God does with me, whenever I stray or mess up the relationship in some terrible way; and so far, God has always been there for me, welcoming me into loving arms.

But here, in Malachi, it seems to be a different story. God is really, really angry. This was not a pleasant passage for me to pray. The phrases that stuck out were: “The fault is yours…. I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hands” (Malachi 1:9b,10b; NRSV). Strangely, I don’t think God would ever react like that to me; God and I have been through so much together. Although I know anything can happen, I can’t imagine ever letting God down to the degree that God says, “I find no pleasure in you.”

What scares me, though, is that someday I might say precisely that to my friend. I don’t want that ever to happen. I say that I love him unconditionally, no matter what he does, no matter what he thinks or says, even when he disappoints or ignores me. But is it possible, when a relationship is not mutual, for unconditional love to continue indefinitely? I ask this, knowing full well that my relationship with God is not mutual, either.

Thought for the day: What does unconditional love, when it’s not mutual, look like over time?

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the guidelines on the How to Pray page.