As I watched "Kingdom of Heaven" this weekend, I was struck by the curious nature of the crusades. The movie is set in 12th Century Jerusalem and follows the Knights of Templar. It's a very action packed film, although somewhat superficial in it's treatment of the underlying themes. Liam Neeson and Orlando Bloom are cast as noblemen who try to maintain peace in the hate-driven environment of the Holy Land. I enjoyed the film, but reflected on the sad nature of the crusades, imposing one's religious belief onto another, by the sword. Christians and Muslims caught in a whirlpool of hatred, war, and bloodshed in a quest to impose their version of "true" religion upon one another. The Knight's battle cry "God wills it" seems vaguely reminiscent of the cry "Do your duty" uttered by John D. Lee on Mountain Meadows in Mormonism's own miniature adaptation of the crusades. I continue to be disgusted and appalled by people who proclaim to follow God, yet have little or no understanding of the true meaning of love.
Jesus taught us to love our fellow man. He taught us to love our enemies, and do good to those who despitefully use us and persecute us. He taught us to love one another unconditionally. "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." He didn't limit the application of love to only those friends who followed a certain proscribed set of rules. He simply mentioned "friends." True friends. Jesus served as the example of one who loved all people. His association with harlots and publicans confirms that they were his friends. All versions of Christianity would be well-served by following the example of their founder. Loving all people equally, rather than imposing religious views at the point of a sword or a bowie knife, shows true devotion to Christ. He stated that the two great commandments are to love God, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.
Elder Russell M. Nelson, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, recently published an article in the Ensign entitled "Divine Love." In the article he states "Divine Love is also conditional. While divine love can be called perfect, infinite, enduring, and universal, it cannot correctly be characterized as unconditional. The word does not appear in the scriptures." Elder Nelson's definition of conditional love does not fit the meaning of true love. True love is love that transcends all else. To assume that God would love us conditionally is patently absurd on it's face. A loving God is, by definition, a God that loves truly and honestly. Would an all-knowing, omniscient God be limited in His true love for us? And would He communicate this limitation by revelation? I find Elder Nelson's version of God's love unpersuasive and uninspired.
"God is Love" (1 John 4:8) The passage does NOT say "God is conditional love." God being pure, is only capable of unconditional powerful love. To state the opposite is to put conditions on God's purity, and His Omnipotence. God is not capable of conditional love, we are all loved equally because God represents the essence of love. True love is a character trait that I have recently witnessed in the relationships of some good friends. The ability to see good in people and to respect, honor, and support them, in spite of our differences, is evidence of true love. Avoiding stereotypes and not judging others also is evidence of true love. True love exists on a higher emotional plane that has no judgmental qualities or expectations. True love is able to surpass all external limitations placed on relationships based on sexual orientation, skin color, or level of faithfulness and reach newer and higher planes of acceptance, empathy and tolerance. True love is above all other love, and is entirely unconditional by nature. God's love is true love, and our unconditional acceptance and warmth for those of other faiths, lack of faith, skin color, or sexual orientation is the highest manifestation of love on our part. Killing others as a testimony of religious belief has nothing to do with love, and represents the most basic misinterpretation of God.
True love is unconditional. By nature. God's love for us is true love. Our love for our own children is unconditional, why would God's love for us be any different? What a wonderful thought knowing that God will judge us on the content of our character and not on our affiliation with a certain religion, the color of our skin, or our sexual orientation. His true love far surpasses those external standards, and I believe He is far more interested in what we make of our lives, and how deeply we are able to develop our own true love towards Him and other people.