I don’t know what else I can do!” my exasperated friend sulked. “I set high standards for my kids and hold them accountable for their actions, and all they do is hate me. What did I do to deserve this?” He noted how he has always been “hard” (his word) on his son so that he would do great things. Hmm. Is this about the ingratitude of the kids? Or the rules-based, inflexible view of love held by the father?

In the beginning, there was a perfect Father who didn’t have many rules. Just one, actually. He gave His children a stunningly gorgeous garden in which to live and work. He enjoyed their company. They had everything they could ever need, including a perfect mate. (Only Adam and Eve could say that.) He gave them one solitary prohibition. “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden,” He told Adam, “except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die” (Genesis 2:16-17). You know the rest of the story. Adam and Eve, it seems, were just like us . . .

God, being the perfect Father, didn’t let His kids off the hook. There were consequences for their bad behavior. But He didn’t leave them there either. Even on that sad day, He set in motion a plan to buy us back from sin’s curse with the sacrifice of His perfect Son Jesus.

In this world, imperfect parents struggle to raise imperfect children who grow up to accept or ignore their advice and correction. We do well to remember a lesson God taught us long ago: Perfect love doesn’t require love in return (1 Corinthians 13:5).

A love that we demand from others is no love at all—it’s simply extortion.

NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: Numbers 14:5-45