Printer Friendly Topic: Unconditional Love
Author: Cathy Drobnick / Illustration Exchange
Scripture: 1 John 4:10
Source: “THE QUESTION THAT MADE THEM LAUGH” by Cathy Drobnick, published by New Tribes Mission on, January 3, 2013

New Tribes Mission reports on the way one group of Bible translators came to communicate the fullness of God’s love to an African tribal community:

“The verbs for a particular African language consistently end with one of three vowels,” explains Dennis Farthing from the NTM Missionary Training Center. “Almost every verb ends in i, a, or u. But the word for ‘love’ was only found with i and a. Why no u?”

Dennis says the Bible translation team included the most influential leaders in the local community. In an effort to truly understand the concept of “love” in this African language, the missionary began to question them.

“Could you dvi your wife?”

“Yes,” they answered, “that would mean that the wife had been loved, but the love was gone.”

“Could you dva your wife?”

“Yes,” they responded, “that kind of love depends on the wife’s actions. She would be loved as long as she remained faithful and took good care of her husband.”

“Could you dvu your wife?”

Everyone in the room laughed.

“Of course not!” they replied. “If you said that, you would have to keep loving your wife no matter what she did, even if she never got you water and never made you meals. Even if she committed adultery, you would have to just keep on loving her. No, we would never say dvu. It just doesn’t exist.”

The missionary sat quietly for a while, thinking about John 3:16, and then he asked, “Could God dvu people?”

There was complete silence for three or four minutes; then tears started to trickle down the weathered faces of the elderly men of the tribe. Finally they responded, “Do you know what this would mean? This would mean that God kept loving us over and over, while all that time we rejected His great love. He would be compelled to love us, even though we have sinned more than any people.”

The missionary noted that changing one simple vowel changed the meaning from “I love you based on what you do and who you are,” to “I love you, based on who I am. I love you because of me and not because of you.”

Dennis concludes, “God encoded the story of His unconditional love right into this African language. For centuries, the little word was there—unused but available, grammatically correct and quite understandable.”


Have you embraced the fact that God could dvu you? He loves you because of Who HE is and not because of who you are or what you have done! No longer do you need to seek approval and acceptance from others to be loved. You are known and loved by Him Who loves you just because of Who He is.

That should blow our minds and overwhelm our spirits. Knowing that we are loved like this gives us what we need to love others with the same unconditional love. Such a love sets us free. Free to love as He has loved us.

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

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