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Unconditional Love

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In this post I’d like to share a few thoughts about love, and specifically how love operates in the life of a Christian. I will argue that the Christian worldview presents a God who loves conditionally, and that this fails to satisfy our innate longing for unconditional love.

We have in the New Testament a wonderful definition of love given by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13. He says the following:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

It’s interesting that Paul says love keeps no record of wrongs, as within the Christian worldview we all deserve punishment from God for our wrongs. It would seem that Paul’s definition of love doesn’t apply to God. In response to this point the Christian might say Jesus’ function is to erase the wrongs of those who turn from their sin and follow Him. That’s the condition that we need to meet to be deserving of God’s love.

In the above scripture Paul also says that love does not delight in evil, which makes me wonder whether God is delighting in evil when He casts unbelievers into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15). Of course many Christians present the argument that God’s justice somehow demands that He must send unbelievers to hell, but this is a ridiculous argument because God is in control of all things and can do whatever He pleases. He is not compelled to do anything – that’s what makes Him God.

According to the Christian worldview, the only way to avoid God’s wrath and punishment is to obey the commands of Christ (see John 14:21). God’s love is not unconditional, but conditional. This puts the Christian in a rather difficult position, because during evangelistic activities he/she is compelled to convey the conditional love of God (with a warning about damnation), rather than unconditional love. I believe this creates an awkward tension, and is necessarily divisive. I believe people are often dismissive of Christians because the message of love is conditional, while we all have an innate desire to experience unconditional love. I believe this is the reason why a lot of the time people resist the call the follow Jesus.

Of course, Jesus knew that His message would be divisive (Luke 12:51-52).

I don’t think there’s any escaping the fact that the Christian worldview presents a God who is hostile towards some people. An alternative worldview would be one where every being is loved unconditionally by God, and in which Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Bahá’ís, and others, all have an important part to play in God’s grand scheme, which He is unfolding in accordance with His sovereign will. From this perspective, every human being has a purpose, and a unique calling, not only those who choose to follow Christ. While each individual journey may involve suffering as part of God’s intricately crafted plan, He eventually liberates everyone. That would be unconditional love.


If you’d like to explore the topics covered in this post in greater depth, you may be interested in my book entitled ‘Ultimate Truth: God Beyond Religion’. You can read all about it and watch the book trailer here. Thank you for reading!

26 comments

  1. We are loved and the condition is that we understand there is no limit to divine love. If we cannot love each other then that love can be tough, teaching us that by whatever name we call our God, he loves us and wants us to be the best we can be. Does that make sense? Rambling but I get it.

  2. “how love operates in the life of a Christian”
    Although of course we must accept that qualia such as love operate in the lives of all human beings, whether Christians or not.
    As does hatred, envy, jealousy, lust, sloth and so on.
    Our similarities as humans transcend any belief system.

  3. Good word. Very thought provoking.
    I think I might slice it up a bit differently, however. I actually see God’s love as the motivator behind all of his activities. I think this is necessarily the case if 1 John 4:8 is true in its definition of God as being love. The common quoted words of C.S. Lewis are a guide to me here — “There are two types of people…those who say to God thy will be done, and those to whom God says thy will be done.” Hell is an eternal “thy will be done” spoken by God to those who have willfully rejected his offer of love. This then is the only loving response, to give them what they have demanded all of their life; to give them themselves for all eternity. The horror is that the unredeemed self is a monster, and the absence of God creates chaos and joylessness, i.e. Hell. Thus God’s love is unconditional, but the experience of that love is based upon how we respond to its offer.

    1. Hi there! Thank you for reading, and for your response. I appreciate it 🙂

      I don’t see how condemning people to hell is a ‘loving response’! Don’t you think that forgiving people and granting them peace would be a more loving response?

      I believe God is in control of all things, which is very relevant to your comments, but that would be another discussion for another post. Feel free to check out my article entitled God’s Grand Game if you’re interested in my view of God’s total sovereignty over creation.

      It seems to me that in your closing sentence you described a condition – the same condition I wrote about in the article. We can experience God’s love on the condition that we obey Jesus. I would say that condition comes from God, whereas it seems you are arguing it’s up to us. But surely salvation, from a Christian perspective, is God’s plan rather than a human plan? Doesn’t God make the rules?

      I think the crux of our disagreement would be that you believe in free will and that salvation is in our hands, whereas I believe all that happens is under God’s control. Would that be correct?

      1. Yes and no. I don’t draw a hard line between freewill and sovereignty. When I read the New Testament I don’t see the categories being starkly delineated. But, to put it simply, I do believe in a real freewill which must be activated in order to respond to God’s offer of love, yet this too is under God’s strange providence.

        Regarding Hell, I think implicit in my thought is perhaps a difference in definition of what constitutes Hell. I do not think the traditional imagery of fire and brimstone is meant to be taken literally, but instead metaphorically. The literal description of Hell is separation from God, and the experience of that can only be compared in human terms to things such as fire etc.

        In this sense I don’t see Hell so much as retributive as I do see it as the necessary consequence of a choice of self over God. It would, in my estimation, be unloving by God to the individual to manipulate their will so that they would choose what would in fact be better for them. Love motivates God to say, “Have it your way. If you don’t want me, I’m not going to force myself on you.”

        I realize as I write this that it strikes at tensions of how saving faith is enabled by God in the first place. I see that, but I also own the fact that such tensions are irreconcilable, and that the New Testament makes no effort to reconcile them.

        Thanks for the article. I look forward to reading it.

        1. Thank you for your explanation. I agree that the tensions you describe are irreconcilable – from a Christian perspective, that is. And that is the reason why I find it so hard to embrace Christianity, because Christians present free will and God’s sovereignty as being compatible, when really they are not. It’s a crucial issue.

          I appreciate your willingness to discuss these things and hope that you will feel welcome to comment on any other posts you read. Best wishes!

  4. Hi Steven! Thanks for another thoughtful post. 🙂

    I think it’s important, however, to read Scripture in context and remember the original audience to whom this message was directed (and is presently directed) today. Paul’s letters to Corinthians were directed to the church then, and can be applied more globally to Christ followers today.

    A careful reading of 1 Corinthians 12 and 14 – or perhaps both of Paul’s letters to Corinth – may be helpful here, so I plan to give them a more careful (and prayerful) review and will chime in with any additional insights that the Holy Spirit sends my way.

    As always, I appreciate your efforts to keep the spiritual discourse flowing! Have a good day.

    1. Hi Daily!

      Thank you for reading and for sharing your thoughts. If you feel there was something wrong with the way in which I quoted and wrote about the passage from Corinthians, you’re welcome to explain where you disagree, I’m all ears!

      Of course the main point of the post was to point out the difference between conditional and unconditional love, which I believe is something we know intuitively, and doesn’t depend on Paul’s definition. I quoted the passage to give us some guidance concerning what Christians believe love is.

      Peace and blessings,

      Steven

  5. Clap, clap, clap! Excellent post. Love is, according to the writer of the Gospel of John, is the defining character of God. We get so wrapped up as Protestants in defending God’s righteousness, holiness and justice, that love gets placed on the back burner. God can defend himself, thank you. But we are called to love as He loves. That is our calling. So much that calls itself orthodox theology is just religious blathering and detracts us from our calling.

  6. “I believe people are often dismissive of Christians because the message of love is conditional, while we all have an innate desire to experience unconditional love. I believe this is the reason why a lot of the time people resist the call the follow Jesus.”

    You know what? I never considered that but your viewpoint makes so much sense. Evangelism, especially street evangelism is a tricky thing that could turn ugly real quick. “God loves you and you can receive salvation but only if you admit you’re a sinner.” I think ^ is probably what I’ve struggled with the most in my walk with the Lord. You almost want to question God like “Uh, are you okay? Did you not see that bad thing I just did/said/thought and you still love me? No.” His unconditional love, when stacked against the conditional love often experienced in human relationships, feels uncomfortable, almost like an alien entity. And yet, it’s still always there, waiting for us.

    Beautiful words, Steven. May God bless you dude.

    1. You’re very kind, Rulonda, thank you for your comment! I’m so glad you could relate to the post.

  7. Just found your blog post after writing about my experience with a Christian sermon on Love conditionals and without conditionals. Love to hear your take on it.
    pashasalon.blog/HoldyourHorses

    1. Hi Pasha!

      Thanks for stopping by. I read your article. I can understand how you felt when the pastor started talking about evil. On the other hand, I’ve witnessed demons being cast out of people, so I can understand the other side of the story too 🙂

      Best wishes!

      Steven

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