Unrequited Love

Whether it’s romance or friendship, nothing stings as sharply, nor as long, as unrequited love. Webster defines unrequited love as “not reciprocated or returned in kind.” In a word, it feels like rejection.

Of all the negative human emotions worn by Jesus, rejection could arguably be the one He experienced most often. Pharisees scoffed Him, and even His own disciples denied and doubted Him. Yet, perhaps the unkindest cut of all came as a result of the betrayal by His friend Judas.

Though Judas had witnessed Jesus performing miracle after miracle, he merely referred to Him as “Rabbi” or “Teacher”, never “Lord”. Jesus didn’t fit Judas’ bill for the kind of Messiah he was expecting. He had waited for a military liberator, not a Prince of Peace. The fact that Judas is always listed last in every list of disciples may be an indication of the lack of personal relationship he had with Jesus. 

Most likely, on some lesser level you understand this kind of unrequited friendship. Perhaps, you once invested in the life of someone who rarely, if ever, offered you a return on your investment. You did the calling and inviting. They didn’t. You shared your hopes and dreams. They didn’t. You wanted more. They didn’t.  

In the interaction between Jesus and Judas in the Garden of Gethsemane it’s easy to filter our feelings about the betrayal through those kinds of experiences. Our mortal eyes see Judas as a selfish, greedy traitor who hung Jesus out to dry. We’re tempted to conjure up our own notion of what Jesus might have thought about the betrayal, “After all I’ve done for you, how could you do such a thing? I thought you were my friend! This is the last time I’ll ever trust anyone!”

However, taking the time to sit next to Jesus as he washed His disciples’ feet in John 13 allows us a different perspective on Jesus’ possible response. He knew Judas was the one who would betray Him.  Though that rejection troubled his spirit deeply, He still washed Judas’ feet right along with the disciples who had indeed called Jesus their Lord. Judas might have possibly believed Jesus was THE Messiah, but he never believed He was HIS Messiah – and that made all the difference.  

After Jesus washed their feet, they had a meal together. Jesus dipped bread into a bowl, and handed it to Judas saying, “Hurry and do what you are going to do.” Judas made his exit and missed hearing Jesus’ warmest words of reassurance and love. (Read John 14-17) 

Basking in the heartfelt words of Jesus allows us to stand with unclouded eyes next to Him and Judas in the Garden. Critiquing Judas through the eyes of Jesus, we see a better way to frame unrequited love. Challenge me if you like, but I believe that rather than being hurt and angry, Jesus was sad that Judas had turned down His love. Judas could have had an extraordinary eternal life. Instead, he rejected the invitation, resisted the call, dashed his hopes and dreams, and wanted no more of Jesus. When Jesus called him “Friend” this one last time, I wonder if Judas dared look into the eyes of Jesus long enough to notice all the love they held. 

My prayer is that we learn to see others the way Jesus sees them. When our love for them isn’t returned, let’s go to the One who never rejects us – the One who stands ready to give us more than we can imagine. Let Jesus remind you of your worth so you can press on joyfully. 

“I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father.” John 15:11-15, The Message

Posted in
a poster saying “UNREQUITED LOVE”

My God Story – Ella Van Deusen

By Donna Jackson | June 21, 2022 |

I’ve waited weeks now to introduce you to my sweet friend Ella Van Deusen! We first met when I began to serve the elementary aged children in our church. At the age of ten, Ella’s understanding of God and His Word made leading her small group a huge blessing. I’ve watched her grow into an…

One of the Good Ones

By Donna Jackson | June 14, 2022 |

You may call me shameless, and that’s okay.  However, I have someone who deserves a pat on the back. Some royal treatment. A great big “attaboy”. I’m sure you have a “someone” in your life who deserves the same. Even the apostle Paul told the Romans they should give honor to those to whom it is…

Weary and Discouraged

By Donna Jackson | June 7, 2022

As the iconic movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” opens, we meet George Bailey, a banker who soon finds himself trapped under a boulder of challenging circumstances. Even though he has a wife, children, extended family, and friends who love him and would gladly help, he still feels trapped. At his lowest point, he feels like…

Your Story

By Donna Jackson | May 17, 2022

Have you ever wondered how your life’s story would read if it were part of the Bible? Would it be complicated or comical? Melodramatic or monotonous? Apathetic or adventurous? Heartbreaking or heroic? I wonder what Moses thought of the whole Exodus story. His exploits were definitely legendary – the stuff blockbusters are made of –…

I Don’t Want To

By Donna Jackson | May 10, 2022

For several years, our small tribe of women met for Bible study with female inmates in our local jail. They shared their stories of abuse, drugs, tragedy, and great sorrow. We did our best to point them to Jesus, the only One who could heal their hurt and help them find lasting peace. Since we…

No Time to Play Games

By Donna Jackson | May 3, 2022

Last Monday rubbed my patience about as raw as sushi. And I hate sushi. Everything I tried to do went sideways. In my mind, I imagined flinging my computer across the room so it would feel the same amount of grief it had caused me. Every click of the cursor apparently filled the hard drive…

A Life That Matters

By Donna Jackson | April 19, 2022

The motley tribe of seven disciples sat quietly beside the sea trying to understand the most recent swirl of events. Their time spent as Jesus’ close companions had given them direction and a purpose. But now, everything was changing so quickly. Their teacher, friend, and Messiah had been tortured, humiliated, and killed by Roman soldiers.…

You May Argue, But …

By Donna Jackson | April 12, 2022

Whenever my brain waves begin to lay flat and my mind becomes exhausted from a day of writing, I grab a glass of tea and the TV remote. I depend on Joanna Gaines and Giada DeLaurnetiis to give my mind a break. They offer the inspiration I need to fill a skillet or two for…

What Do You Want for the Children in Your Life?

By Donna Jackson | April 10, 2022

What do you want for the children in your life? That was the question I posed this week to a room full of courageous ladies in drug rehab. Answers flew back: “Happiness”, “Peace”, “Strength”, “A relationship with God”. In a previous Bible study, they had asked for a message on parenting. My wheels immediately began…

Why Travel Perfection Road?

By Donna Jackson | April 5, 2022

On the outside my grandmother Josephine looked like any other grandmother. She wore glasses, gray hair, and her share of wrinkles and spots. But on the inside pumped the heart of a playful little girl. We cut paper dolls out of the Sears and Roebuck catalog, sang at her piano, and turned brand-new pointed Crayola…