Pastis gets it…well, sort of. Rat decides that he needs to get unconditional love from others. However, as Goat rightly points out, Rat cannot simply command others to unconditionally love him; that is very true. To say that one will offer unconditional love hinged on some sort of condition prior to giving that unconditional love, is, boldly, conditional love. And, as Goat states, “…no right thinking person is going to offer unconditional love to someone whose love is conditional”. To have someone unconditionally love you, there can be absolutely no conditions. Goat is simply wise to point this out to Rat.
But here is the ‘sort of’ (if you will): the error is that true unconditional love expects nothing in return; this is what Paul Zahl calls: one-way love. One. Way. Not two ways. One-way love is freely given; it is offered apart from any hinging request or desire. There is no ‘or else’ or ‘and’ to one-way love. It is simply one-way, and it is relentless. One-way love stands firm because it expects nothing back. One-way love is not turning a blind eye to faults and failures, but the overarching and over-reaching statement that cuts through those faults and failures and declares us to be lovable when we, frankly, are not. This love declares yes, when everything else declares no. One way love is Gospel love, the love of God, the love demonstrated by the Cross.
And yes, we do love because we have first been loved (1 John 4:19). Yet, it is because that love, which loves us, is one-way, no-strings-attached, carrying with it no expectations; that is the love that causes us to love back (and to love others).