David Powlinson, in his booklet “God’s Love: Better Than Unconditional,” examines what people are intending when they talk about God’s “unconditional love” for them and how they may be not getting it right:
We can do better. Saying “God’s love is unconditional love” is a bit like saying “The sun’s light at high noon is a flashlight in a blackout.” Come again? A dim bulb sustains certain analogies to the sun. Unconditional love does sustain certain analogies to God’s love. But why not start with the blazing sun rather than the flashlight? When you look closely, God’s love is very different from “unconditional positive regard,” the seedbed of contemporary notions of unconditional love. God does not accept me just as I am; He loves me despite how I am; He loves me just as Jesus is; He loves me enough to devote my life to renewing me in the image of Jesus. This love is much, much, much better than unconditional! Perhaps we could call it “contraconditional” love. Contrary to the conditions for knowing God’s blessing, He has blessed me because His Son fulfilled the conditions. Contrary to my due, He loves me. And now I can begin to change, not to earn love but because of love.
. . . You need something better than unconditional love. You need the crown of thorns. You need the touch of life to the dead son of the widow of Nain. You need the promise to the repentant thief. You need to know, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” You need forgiveness. You need a Vinedresser, a Shepherd, a Father, a Savior. You need to become like the one who loves you. You need the better love of Jesus.
If you’re still not convinced, consider a recent post where John Piper examines specific scriptures that point to how there are conditions God has set before us. Consider:
Matthew 25:46 — And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.
Romans 5:1 — Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ
Romans 8:28 — And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
John 14:21 — Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.
James 4:8 — Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
But also consider what aspects of God are really unconditional. That is, his electing love:
Ephesians 1:4-5 — even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will
Acts 13:48 — And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.
The danger we need to guard against is having too high a regard of ourselves and too low a regard for God. If we are “OK” we don’t need a savior, and that’s just not the case.
HT: Justin Taylor