God’s Love- Is it Really Unconditional?

In the beginning let me admit one thing. If you don’t read this carefully, there is a chance that you will misunderstand.

Have you ever heard the word “Unconditional Love” being used again and again from pulpits by preachers to make people understand the love of God? They base this concept on the basis of few verses which at times they interpret in a way to fit their own idea. For example Ephesians 3:19
“and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. “

Do a search about this word "Unconditional" in your Bible. Can you find this word anywhere in reference to God’s Love?

So what does this mean? No matter what I do, God still loves me. Yes, when I was a sinner, God first loved me. When we were yet sinners, God showed his love towards us by sending his Son Jesus Christ to die for our sins.

Now there is some danger of over emphasis of this word unconditional. I want to bring it out.

Paul Brownback, in his book The Danger of Self-Love, tells it this way:
"... by unconditional love we are speaking of love on the basis of being rather than doing. One implication of this teaching is the place of grandeur that it gives to the human being. I am lovable just because I am human; therefore being human, in and of itself, regardless of what I do with my humanness, must have some sort of independent value or worth. It is by itself a sufficient claim to respect and esteem" (p. 66).

In human society it can mean to give and to expect unconditional love from one another with no strings attached. While unconditional love and acceptance supposedly promote change and growth, they make no requirements. But God, who is love, requires change and enables his children to grow in righteousness.

God’s love to us is great and is available to us by grace. We cannot gain it by doing some rituals or we cannot simply earn it. There is no work of human beings which will be good enough to earn this love. So does that make God’s love “Unconditional”?

Now let’s see a famous verse i.e. John 3:16-
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

So in this verse there is no work demanded from people to be saved but there is a condition- Whoever believes. It is simply a condition to be saved.

God loves us but the use of the term “Unconditional” gives us altogether different picture. Did Jesus really talk about Love of God in an “Unconditional” way in human sense?

See John 14:21 ‘Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.

What is this verse saying? Can you see any condition in that? You see it yourself.

Now let's look at the story of prodigal son found in Luke 15. This is used by my many people to explain God love as Unconditional. Is it really a story of unconditional love? Did the father go out seeking the son and support him for his foolishness of going out of house? It is true that the father waited patiently for his son to return. If the son would‘t have ended up in trouble and returned back to his father with repentance then what would have happened? This story reflects God’s love, mercy, long suffering and forgiveness. Can you see the concept of unconditional love of God anywhere in that story?

So if you purely think of God’s love as unconditional in the sense that God ignores all your actions and loves you then there is some problem with that thinking. The father forgave his son who came back and repented. So what does that mean? God so loved the word. It is true. But there is Justice and righteousness also in God.

If it is Unconditional Love then why did Jesus preach the sermon on mount teaching people how to conduct their life? Why did he ask people to be born again? Well if it is fully unconditional then I think every human being will be saved on the simple fact that they were born in this world and God loves them. Otherwise how can that love be called us Unconditional. If it is unconditional then there should not be anything attached to it. You do what you want. That will lead us to the universal Salvation concept. Then there is no need to preach the Gospel.

So can we suspect that this phrase is used by enemy to deceive people and give a different, wrong and false idea about the God of Bible? Yes that’s the truth. Few days ago I was in a meeting where a young man who has been taught this lie stood up and said that “God doesn’t care about my Sin. God loves me.” What a terrible lie. God loves him but God hates his Sin. I am not sure if that is clear to that young man.

This dangerous concept is in sharp disagreement to the Justice of God found throughout the Bible. Any person who reads the Bible with an open heart can easily understand that God of Bible hates sin and he punishes sinners. He loves everyone. That's why He gave His son Jesus Christ. Some may argue it’s the Old Testament and old covenant. You can look in the New Testament also. Bible has many instructions as to how to conduct our life. Read the Gospels or the Epistles, you will see it. Almost every book of New Testament has practical exhortations regarding how a man is suppose to lead his life in this world. Can we hide behind the word “Unconditional Love” and do what we want. It will deceive many if it is understood in a wrong way.

I did a study and research about this subject and found lot of things about it. This phrase is not found in the Bible. This is a buzz word used by enemy to promote casual and easy going Christianity. The results may not be evident now but a time will come when things like this will start reflecting on churches. What’s the message the young people in the churches are getting? They already they have so many pressures to go behind the things of this world. On top of that these type of teachings which does not focus on the whole picture will lead many to be deceived. Let me quote few verses I found on a website here. Read for yourself and think about it.

Jer. 5:12-13 (NIV) "They have lied about the Lord; they said, 'He will do nothing! No harm will come to us; we will never see sword or famine.' The prophets are but wind and the word is not in them..."

Jer. 8:6-9 (NIV) "I have listened attentively, but they do not say what is right. No one repents of his wickedness, saying, 'What have I done?' ...My people do not know the requirements of the Lord. How can you say, 'We are wise...' Since they have rejected the word of the Lord, what kind of wisdom do they have?"

Jer. 23:16-18 (NIV) This is what the Lord Almighty says: "Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. They keep saying to those who despise me, 'The Lord says: You will have peace.' And to all who follow the stubbornness of their hearts they say, 'No harm will come to you.' But which of them has stood in the council of the Lord to see or to hear his word? Who has listened and heard his word?"

Jer. 23:21-22 (NIV) "I did not send these prophets, yet they have run with their message; I did not speak to them, yet they have prophesied. But if they had stood in my council, they would have proclaimed my words to my people and would have turned them from their evil ways and from their evil deeds."

Lam 2:14 (NIV) "The visions of your prophets were false and worthless; they did not expose your sin to ward off your captivity. The oracles they gave you were false and misleading."

Luke 3:7b (NIV) "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?"

John 3:36 (NIV) "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him."

Rom 2:5,8 (NIV) But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed... For those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.

Eph 2:3 (NIV) All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.

Eph 5:6 (NIV) Let no-one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient.

1Co 2:13 (NIV) This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.

2 Tim 4:2-4 (TCN) Proclaim the Message, be ready in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, encourage, never failing to instruct with forbearance. For a time will come when people will not tolerate sound teaching. They will follow their own wishes, and, in their itching for novelty, procure themselves a crowd of teachers. They will turn a deaf ear to the Truth, and give their attention to legends instead.

Heb 13:9 (NIV) Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings.

I may sound strong in this. May be negative to some people. But I want you to read these verses for yourself and carefully examine.

Let me tell one more thing so that no one will misunderstand me. I strongly believe God is Love. I know I am saved by grace. It’s by the mercy of God that I am alive and what I am. But..

God’s Love- Is it Really Unconditional?

May God Bless You!

Comments

Anonymous said…
An argument such as 'Do a search about this word "Unconditional" in your Bible. Can you find this word anywhere in reference to God’s Love?' is very trifling and immature due to the very fact that you have not explored why the word 'unconditional' is used by people.

Agape is the greek word for love whenever God's love to man is spoken of in the new testament. Agape is referred to as the unearned love God had for humanity — a love so great that God was willing to send his only son to suffer and die on our behalf.
Unconditional is not mentioned in bible... True. Agape is the word used in the original greek text.
Agape means unconditional love or unearned love or selfless love. Agape being greek is not used in your English bible (although some versions do have Agape in there wherever it occurs).

Unearned, Unconditional love in no way means that God overlooks sins. It definetly in no way suggests there is a license to
sin (this would be demonic). In fact this love has changed people to live pure and faithful lives upto the point of death.
St. Paul, Nicky Cruz and thousands of people who have lived sacrificial lives just because of the fact that God has loved them unconditionally.
I dont know why you would have a problem with the term 'Unconditional love' if you know what it means.
There is a confusion with the way you are interpreting words here.

Heres an attempt to help explain 'Unconditional love':
1) In the story of the prodigals son, does it say the father stopped loving the son the day he left the house? His eyes were always looking for his son. If the Father's love was conditional love he would have stopped loving his son the day he left the house.
The Father still loved the son even though he left the house. But father did not have the celebration until the son returned.

2) A father/mother may love his child to the point of death.
Does that mean the parent stops loving the child when the child does wrong? No. This is unconditional love.

3) Here is a story of the judge who sits in trial in a courtroom where his son is being tried for murder. Son walks in, witnesses are called, and it is time for the
verdict. The judge with tears in his eyes looks at his son and says son I love you and then looking at the crowd grimly passes the death sentence on his own son.
The love here is unconditional but there is a judgement for them that deliberately do not walk in His ways.

4) Obedience. If you love me you'll obey me... where does it say if you dont obey me i'll stop loving you?
At the same time, living in deliberate disobedience is WRONG in the sight of God and we will be judged for that. But does this mean that God will stop loving us? What does this have to do with the agape love of God?

God loves the sinner(while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us...) this is unconditional love
The Lord still loves an unbeleiving soul... no matter where he has been. God's unconditional love has made a way of grace for the sinner to
become a saint if he truly repents and walks in the Lord's ways.

If someone were to say God love toward us is unconditional(/Agape). Is this untrue?
Your understanding on the concept of 'Unconditional'... sorry to say is a bit skewed. I belive you are mixing 2 things.
I would like to ask you the question are you one of those who "They base this concept on the basis of few verses which at times they interpret in a way to fit their own idea."
Tinku Thompson said…
Dear Anonymous,

Thank You for the comment. It looks like you are upset with my post. I am sorry if you are hurt. It seems that you are a person who speaks very much about “Unconditional Love”. I got feedback from some people that the post was excellent and helpful.

It looks like you wrote the comment just as a defense and have lost the main thought which I presented in the post. So I recommend you to read my post again without any prejudice. Can you quote a statement from the post in which I have written that God stops loving or that God only loves people who obey?

Thank you for explaining the Agape love and all examples of love. But just to make sure you get what I wrote let me again explain what the purpose of that post.
The word Unconditional Love is not used in the proper way many times by people, which can lead to a different idea about God’s love. I never wrote that the Father stopped loving the Son who went out. But unless and until the son didn’t return back there was no celebration and son couldn’t enjoy the fathers love. So what does that mean? For celebration and enjoyment the son had to repent and return back. If your message and Gospel doesn’t make that point clear and just point towards Unconditional love then it can mislead people.
So if you are preacher who speaks about Love of God and unconditional love then I request you to make this point clear. If you do that there is no problem. If you are already doing that then an article like this should never disturb you.

In this reply I don’t want to give a defense against your comments as I don’t feel its worth since I have made my points very clear in my post. It’s not skewed as you claim. If a person just goes by the heading and if he has not properly read the post then it can seem to be skewed.

I strongly believe that God loves me and God loves the whole world. That’s the reason He gave his only son Jesus to die for the world. But presenting this love in a way which can make people comfortable about their sin and spiritual failures is not the correct way. So my concern is with that. It’s not with Love of God. So if you are a preacher then make sure your clear this point whenever you speak about the Unconditional Love of God.

Wait for few more posts in coming days which will try to present these type of things in the light of God’s word. My intention is not to hurt anyone but to speak out against things which are not going according to God’s word. For the sake of many who visit my blog and are blessed by what is in it, I will continue to write on subjects like this by the Grace of God.

So if you are preacher or clergy who wants to know what goes through the mind of an ordinary laity then you are welcome to read my blogs as I represent the group of laity as we see in today’s world. I just mentioned it to make my point clear even though I don’t totally agree with the concept on clergy and laity in the New Testament church context.

1 Timothy 6:3-5 (NLT)
Some people may contradict our teaching, but these are the wholesome teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. These teachings promote a godly life. Anyone who teaches something different is arrogant and lacks understanding. Such a person has an unhealthy desire to quibble over the meaning of words. This stirs up arguments ending in jealousy, division, slander, and evil suspicions. These people always cause trouble. Their minds are corrupt, and they have turned their backs on the truth. To them, a show of godliness is just a way to become wealthy.

1 Timothy 6:20-21 (NLT)
Timothy, guard what God has entrusted to you. Avoid godless, foolish discussions with those who oppose you with their so-called knowledge. Some people have wandered from the faith by following such foolishness.

Let’s examine ourselves that we are standing in true faith.

May God Bless You!
Anonymous said…
Dear Brother,
If you are today what you look like in your picture... then I am probably much older in years than you are. I am neither a preacher nor clergy... but a humble student of the Word who believes that God has more to teach than what I know or what I have already been taught.

Your blog in no way mentions in print that "God stops loving or that God only loves people who obey?" but for an ordinary person who reads your blog the message that comes out is that God's love is 'Conditional'. It is really not. God loves human kind no matter what. Man's sin does not change God's love for him.
Statements like 'where is unconditional love mentioned in the bible'? or 'Is God's love truly unconditional'? are really strong statements and require due thought as to how this will be perceived before stating.

Judgement will occur for them that continue to deliberately sin.
I have tried to highlight that God's love and Judgement are two things that are being mixed in your initial post.

Not sure if I understand: "But presenting this love in a way which can make people comfortable about their sin and spiritual failures is not the correct way. So my concern is with that. It’s not with Love of God." I agree and There may be wrong doctrines floating around in places... but I cant imagine anyone justifying sin in their lives after truly knowing of the redemptive work of Christ.

For the ones who have replied that the post was excellent and helpful, quite franky I would question their knowledge of the Word (but this is upto you). Again as a Christian I do not believe I should be swayed by opinions of the masses but instead stand for truth against all odds if required.

God's love is not conditional.
Amen! Maranatha!!
Tinku Thompson said…
Dear Anonymous,

I think you missed the first line of my post- “In the beginning let me admit one thing. If you don’t read this carefully, there is a chance that you will misunderstand.”

After reading your reply and reading my post again there is actually no point of disagreement between what I have written and what you are trying to convey. It appears that you are disturbed by the word Unconditional. I have never written that God’s love is conditional. I have raised my concern against the way it is used by many prosperity and free grace preachers to make people comfortable and feel good.

I am what I look in the photo. I respect your age whatever it may be. If you can send me your name and email then it will be good.
Regarding you questioning the people’s knowledge who said this post is excellent and good, I don’t understand why. I am sorry to say that you are just looking at one side and trying to prove that your points are valid.
I am also a student of the word of God whose knowledge may not be very vast. I may not know as much as you know. Every day I learn and walk. I am open for new things which God teaches from his word. So if there are mistakes then I am willing to change and even edit my post. But from your reply I don’t see any reason for that at this point.

I will post 2nd part very soon. It will make things clear to you.

May God Bless You!
Matthew & Diana said…
Thanks for this Post, I have been noticeing this trend lately too, and it is concerning. And I see the point that the Anonymous commenter is trying to make and I think the core of the issue is even in the scripture that you quoted in the post: John 3:16. God LOVES the world, a world that is rebellious and depraved and on the road to "perishing" at the hands of the very God that loves them. So just because God loves you, and that love is unconditional, does not mean you are automatically saved. God's Love is unconditional, but salvation is conditional. Thats just what you pointed out at the later part of John 3:16, there is a condition to salvation. "whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life." It does not read: "For God so loved the world that we all have eternal life." That seems to be the problem, sometimes when ever God's unconditional love is talked about what is being communicated sounds like: "God Loves you unconditionally, so do whatever you want, and you will still go to heaven when you die." This is just dead wrong. we want to convey God's love for people, but not give them the false impression that they are right with God if they are living in sin and/or do not know Christ.

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