Does love have to be vulnerable?

I’m learning a lot about vulnerability and risk lately.  For much of my life I have worked at not being vulnerable.  I’ve been vulnerable before.  It sucked.  I got beat up and kicked in the crotch.  Without going into too much more detail, let’s just say it wasn’t pleasant.  But what I have learned is that you cannot love with out being vulnerable.  To love another person is to accept that they may let you down, not live up to expectations, or even reject you.  Loving another person is an act of vulnerability as reciprocation may not happen and cannot be forced.

And the inverse is even more painful and more true.

You cannot be loved without being vulnerable.  Oh, you can project an image that is loved, but the you tucked under the fake security covers of pretense will not be loved.  For that person to be loved you must vulnerably crawl out from under the covers and be seen.

It’s scary as hell.


But it is the only way to love and be loved in this life.  I believe it. I know it. I’ve experienced it.

However, I have a problem when the love-vulnerability conversation gets put upon God.

The argument is that, as described above, love must be vulnerable. God is love.  Therefore, God is vulnerable.

I’m not buying it.  Not completely.

I do believe Jesus made himself vulnerable.  I believe Jesus opened himself up to ridicule, mockery, chastisement, hatred, rejection, betrayal, and death.  The case for the vulnerability of God is a strong one.  So I’ll concede: in the incarnation God became vulnerable.

But that doesn’t mean love is meant to be vulnerable. 

I believe that, if you want to see real love, you need to look no further than the relationships of the eternal, Triune God.  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit existing in perfect harmony.  Each fully themselves.  Each giving to the other.  Each fully loving the other.  Each limitless in their relation to the other.  But I do not see vulnerability or risk.  I do not see the Father risking loss with the Son.  Nor the Son risking pain with the Spirit.  It doesn’t matter how you pair them up; I do not see vulnerability and risk in the Godhead.  That’s the picture of love.  Love as it is supposed to be.  Love without vulnerability or risk.  To say there has to be risk in love is to make the love between Father, Son, and Spirit anthropocentric because we cannot imagine love without risk.

But don’t you want it to be true?

When sin worked its way into the world, it fractured everything.  Shame caused the involuntary reaction of hiding one from the other. What once was in the open became hidden.  Sexuality broke. Injustice reared its head. Relationships fractured.  Brother killed brother.

Love shattered.

Love’s vulnerability is a post-Genesis 3 reality.  I just wonder if it is designed to be.  Is vulnerability necessary only when loves object is imperfect?  Or when the lover is imperfect?  Are vulnerability and love meant to be eternally linked?

I hope not.

Honestly, don’t you long for a relationship in which you can be fully yourself, out from behind the security of covers, and not vulnerable?  We all want it.  And I don’t think it just fear that makes us desire that type of relationship.  Just like I don’t think it is fear that makes us long for a world restored.  Our souls long for it because our souls, while not immortal or eternal, remember a world as it was meant to be.  We were not created to live in a world that knows suffering and death.  We know this.  This truth rattles deep in our bones.  And maybe, in the same way, we were not created to be in relationships where love requires vulnerability.  Maybe we were created to know love as the Father and Son know love.

Perfect love drives out fear.

Fear of being hurt.  Fear of being let down.  Fear of being rejected – driven out by perfect love.

That’s the intended design of love. That’s the restored picture of love.  Until then, vulnerability is necessary, and love is worth it.

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  • sheebz

    Hello (Pastor?) Nate, thank you for this thought. I agree with this thought. I remember there was a time in my life when I did not agree with the word “vulnerable.” I felt so safe and understood sharing that I did not feel “vulnerable” but merely connected.

    I think some love requires risk, but not all love. For example, I don’t feel at risk in the love that I have for my mother, or my brother or dad.

    I believe that the truest love is low-risk. People with pure, honest hearts know how to love and cherish the beloved — thus the beloved has nothing to fear. And I think it’s our responsibility not to **find** someone who will love us that way, but to **be** that person to those who come to us for a pure love.

  • jlcmom

    In the presence of unconditional love, vulnerability becomes irrelevant. Love with no conditions, no expectations, no assumptions, no judgment, no resentment…..we say the love of God is unconditional, but we have a really hard time believing that is really true. How many people have “humanized” God into a father figure who is harsh and demanding and judgmental?

    If we think it’s impossible that God is really loving us unconditionally, how much more difficult to believe that another person can love us that way?

    Personally, I believe that this is what we are all working toward…..learning through relationships that the only answer is unconditional love.

    So what comes first, the unconditional love or the vulnerability? It’s a chicken and egg thing, and I think we get there little by little. Opening up, loving more completely, opening up, etc.

    The Trinity is the model that we aspire to — unconditional love with complete openness. It IS possible, even as a human, like Jesus showed us. Despite his vulnerability and the pain he endured, he still loved unconditionally.

  • Manuel Paniagua

    This is an argument that I have been having with myself over and over and over again for the past 6 months. Without going into much detail, I was run over by a freight train and it left me devastated. It has been hard for me to understand that many things come between a person and truly loving another. And I find myself trying to go hide into “the fake security covers of pretense” to not feel that kind of disappointment again, but in the end I know that I will crawl out of that blanket and hopefully be able to believe in that kind of love again.

    Its hard when everything around you tells you:

    1.) That this kind of love doesn’t exist. It’s strangely Ironic to think that everyone goes to movies, reads books, and listens to music portraying this kind of love to satisfy their longing for this precious kind of love and in the end they don’t believe that it exists. We settle for other things, material things, and then we go and complain that it wasn’t enough.

    2.) That you have to focus on other things first. I was reading the post from jlcmom and was reaffirmed in my convictions. We don’t have to fill certain labels and rules to be who we are. I don’t believe that, is like saying that if I move to middle-east I would have to beat up a woman just because it is what is “expected”. That would be hypocritical of me. “We live in this world, but we are not from this world”. Expectations is what kills love, and where does these expectations come from? Our own fear of not fulfilling ourselves.

    In short I live in a society where expectations are more important than love (GOD); the good thing is that I am learning that is not a country thing (I live in Guatemala) but a worldwide point of view, and it is refreshing when God puts something like this post on the way to feel hope and, in the end, courage to try and live the way He intended us to live. So I guess what I am trying to say is, THANK YOU Nate for letting God speak to me through you.