By implication, Christianity, through its doctrine of repentance and exclusiveness, teaches that believers receive God’s love and acceptance by being “good”, i.e. doing what God requires and obeying all the rules. God is willing to love but only if people comply with the requirements. Part of the requirements is to change one’s life by forsaking the “bad” and committing to the “good”. In this understanding, the transformation which takes place in one’s life is self-initiated and precedes God’s love. God is willing to love but only if….
This idea of conditional love is definitely at odds with much of our experience in human relationships. Often times we are hard pressed to understand what it is that causes us to love someone else or why they may love us. Love, as they are so fond of saying, is blind. It is quite capable of overlooking a multitude of seemingly obvious flaws. Wives love abusive husbands despite their violence. Men cherish women whose physical appearance might not be classically beautiful. Spouses continue to love a mate whose mind may be impaired and personality dramatically altered by disease. In many ways love seems almost arbitrary. Someone decided to love and that was it; nothing more was required to initiate or maintain that love.
Likewise, the concept of guilt or fear driven transformation as a requirement to be loved is foreign to human experience. How successful would a human relationship be if one of the parties demanded that the other change who they are before love would be extended? Such a relationship might happen, but it would exist on very shaky ground.
In actuality, I am not loved by God because I am good or even just trying to be better. God’s love was extended while I was a sinner. I am loved just as I am, because God could never love me in any other state. No other state exists. I am loved by God because God desired to love me and made a decision to demonstrate that love through Christ.
Understanding that I am loved despite my faults also provides the real key to personal transformation. I am not transformed by feeling guilty and fearful of the consequences. I am transformed by the realization that I am loved and therefore worthy. A feeling of worth propels me to be the best I can be. An individual who experiences love naturally responds to the nurturing effect of that love by seeking self-improvement. Love extended generates love returned and serves to elevate our state of being and self-respect. Self-respect, in turn, is transformative.
In summation then, I conclude that I am not loved because I am good. I am good (strive for goodness) because I am loved. Love is therefore the real transforming power in the universe.