Is God’s love unconditional? Does God still love me when I do the wrong thing? And if I walk away or stray away from Him, will He stop loving me?
If we believe that God’s love is conditional (that is, that He only loves me when I please Him), it radically alters our life. For many years, I believed that God only loved me whenever I obeyed Him. If I did something wrong, I imagined Him being angry with me and harshly rebuking me for what I had done. I believed that the better I obeyed Him, the more He would love me.
But John 3:16-17 gives us a very different picture:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God didn’t send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through him.
If God only loves us when we do what is right, He would have never sent Jesus. But He loved us so much, even when we were sinners, that He came in the flesh to take away our sins and give us eternal life.
But God commends his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we will be saved from God’s wrath through him. For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we will be saved by his life. (Romans 5:8-10)
Children of Our Father
Jesus also taught us:
But I tell you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you, that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? (Matthew 5:44-46)
To boil this down to the simple facts: Jesus tells us that we should love our enemies—those who hate and mistreat us—so that we can be like our Father in Heaven. In other words, God doesn’t expect any more of us than He expects of Himself.
According to Jesus, if God’s love was conditional, He would be no better than the tax collectors who loved those who loved them. There would be nothing special about Him.
Sweeter as the Years Go By
I had a hangup in my own thinking for years, based on a passage from John 14:
One who has my commandments, and keeps them, that person is one who loves me. One who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him, and will reveal myself to him… If a man loves me, he will keep my word. My Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our home with him. (John 14:21, 23)
Is Jesus telling us that He only loves us when we obey Him? No, as we’ve already seen, that’s not true. So, what does this mean?
The Gospel of John calls the Apostle John “the disciple whom Jesus loved”. Did Jesus only love John? No. He loved all the disciples. But it seems that there was a special relationship between Jesus and John.
I don’t believe that we should look at this as “God loves more” or “God loves less”. Rather, when we walk in fellowship with God, we develop a close relationship with Him. As we love Him and receive His love, we become closer and closer. Our love becomes deeper.
God doesn’t force His love upon us. He lets us choose to receive that love. So, when we love Him and open our hearts to His love, He is then free to pour His love into our hearts.
There’s a Catch. This Might Not Mean What You Think It Does.
Yep, that fine-print disclaimer. Except I’m not making it fine print.
Some people reject the idea of unconditional love because they believe it leads to sin. These people miss a crucial aspect of God’s love.
I’ll explain that in the next post.