Thursday, February 15

Unconditional Love

God's love is unconditional.

Let that sink in for a second. It's unconditional. That means that there is nothing we can do to earn it, and there is nothing we can do to lose it. That sounds great. And typically, it's what we say we believe.

Unfortunately, we don't really believe it. In fact, most formal religions, including most Christian churches, are based on the fact that God's love is conditional. Think about it. Typically, we are taught that there are actions that we need to take, things that we need to do, and sin that we really need to get rid of in order for us to be acceptible to God, and in order for us to obtain what God really wants for us.

The result is the belief that the strength of God's love for us is based on what we do to deserve it. It's not really surprising that we view God's love in this way, since so many of our human relationships work in this manner.

The result is that we end up in a cycle of ritual and legalism. How well we are following all of the rules we've created show how our we are doing with God. The more closely we follow them, the more he loves us. Which also means that when we struggle to follow the rules, he love us less.

That doesn't match up with what we know about God. The truth is that God loves us unconditionally. There is nothing we can do that will result in God loving us any less. And there is nothing we can do that will make God love us more.

The focus on following the rules and the ritual does one thing. It gives us a reason not to sin, and the Bible clearly tells us not to sin. If God's love is unconditional, and doesn't require us to avoid sin, then what is there to control our behavior? What keeps us from sinning?

This idea puts things backwards. Rather than viewing removing sin as the cause of God's love, we should see God's love as the cause of removing sin. My wife loves me. Because she loves me, I don't want to do anything that would hurt her, and I do want to do things that make her happy. It should work the same way with God. Because he loves us, we should want to do things that make him happy and avoid things that hurt him. We shouldn't act to get God's love, instead we should act because of God's love.

What would happen if all of the followers of Christ would really get a grip on the fact that God's love is truly unconditional? How would that change our lives? How would that change our world?


TheBGRT said...

Wahoo! He posts again! Great post Tim. That really got me thinking as to how to approach people, or at least how to answer questions they have regarding sin, trust, love, etc. Beautiful work my friend!

SteveJ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SteveJ said...

One reason we have trouble believing in unconditional love is because there's so much in Scripture that doesn't look unconditional at all, such as:

"If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell." (Matt. 5:29)

"For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." (Matt. 6:14-15)

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'" (Matt. 7:21-23)

"Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven." (Matt. 10:32-33)

"Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." (Matt. 10:37-39)

And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. 18:3)

"In anger his master turned him [the unmerciful servant] over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart." (Matt. 18:34-35)

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish." (Luke 13:1-3)

"If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters -- yes, even his own life -- he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. ... any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:26-27, 33)

"Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out -- those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned." (John 5:28-29)

"If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. ... If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love." (John 15:6, 10)

SteveJ said...

By the way, I'm not suggesting with my last post that God's love is conditional. But I see many things in the New Testament that make it difficult to maintain such a perspective.