You would think this is obvious and needs no further explanation since God is love, yet many Christians still struggle with this. In fact, some have even taught that God’s love depends on our response or behavior.
This conditional understanding of God’s love is at the root of all performance-based Christianity. This is probably one of the most demonic lies of all because it puts a question mark on God’s emphatic declaration of His love for us.
When we create doctrines that God’s love is conditional we’re projecting our own self-focused and fickle human distortion of love on to God. We’ve made it all about us, but God’s love is all about Him.
I’ve talked about God’s unconditional love having no conditions a little over a year ago here, but this subject is so important it deserves further study.
First, we know that God is love.
“He who does not love does not know God,
for God is love.” (1 John 4:8 NKJV)
God = Love. Love is a proper noun here.
Love is God’s identity.
All love comes from God. There’s no possibility of love not originating from Him.
John said that this is how we know God–if we love. We cannot know God and not know love. If we don’t love, we prove that we don’t know God (1 John 4:7-8).
God always loves, as a verb, perpetually expressing it within Himself, between the Father and the Son, throughout all eternity (John 17:24).
Since all things in heaven and earth were created by and consist in Christ (Eph.1:10; Col.1:15-17), all people have been placed in this same eternal love circle of perpetual love between the Father and the Son (John 14:20; Eph.2:6; Col.3:3).
God cannot love you anymore or any less that He loves Himself (John 15:9; 17:23). His love is always full-on. It’s always blazing, white hot.
If you want to experience more of God’s love, simply draw near and open your heart like you would warm yourself next to a fully stoked open blast furnace.
God loves every person who has ever lived, and who ever will live, so much that He gave what had infinite value to Him–Jesus Christ–because this is God’s valuation of you.
“For God so loved the world
that He gave His only begotten Son,
that whoever believes in Him should not perish
but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16 NKJV)
NOTE: The Greek word for “world” is kosmos which, in this context, means inhabitants of the world. If you are an inhabitant of the world, God loves you this much (See also 1 John 2:2; 4:10).
God’s love for us is not dependent on our response.
“We love Him because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19 (NKJV)
God already chose us and loved us before we ever did a single thing, before we were born, before space and time were born.
“In Christ, he chose us before the world was made.
He chose us in love to be his holy people
—people who could stand before him without any fault.” (Eph.1:4 ERV)
In fact, it was…
“not according to our works,
but according to His own purpose and grace
which was given to us
in Christ Jesus before time began” (2 Tim.1:9 NKJV)
This is why it’s absurd to think that we can change God. You didn’t do anything to make Him love you, and you can’t do anything to make Him not love you.
God’s love toward us is not dependent on our behavior:
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us,
in that while we were still sinners,
Christ died for us.” (Rom.5:8 NKJV)
“But God, who is rich in mercy,
because of His great love with which He loved us,
even when we were dead in trespasses,
made us alive together with Christ
(by grace you have been saved),
and raised us up together, and made us sit together
in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” (Eph.2:4-6 NKJV)
Notice that not only did God love us, He placed us in Himself while we were still dead in our trespasses! Read it again if you don’t believe me.
Paul understand that all are in Christ. He agreed with the Athenian’s pagan poets that, “In Him we move and have our being” (Acts 17:28), and testified that Christ revealed Himself in Paul while he was “still persecuting the church of God beyond measure and trying to destroy it.” (Gal.1:13-16).
You see, if we we didn’t read these passages with our Western deistic interpretative glasses on, this would be obvious. We’re just going to have to let this work on our little theological boxes for awhile longer. 🙂
But this doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone has benefited from this love. We may still be separating ourselves, whether we be like the prodigal who runs away, or the elder brother who refuses to go in. We are loved, nonetheless.
God loves unthankful and evil people, even those who hate Him. In fact, He returns their evil with good every day.
This was the whole point of Jesus’ teaching about “turning the other cheek,” going the “extra mile,” or the Prodigal father’s unconditional love. He was telling us to act like our Father in heaven. Here are two examples:
“But I say to you, love your enemies,
bless those who curse you,
do good to those who hate you,
and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,
that you may be sons of your Father in heaven;
for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good,
and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matt.5:44-45 NKJV)
“But love your enemies, do good, and lend,
hoping for nothing in return;
and your reward will be great,
and you will be sons of the Most High.
For He is kind to the unthankful and evil.
Therefore be merciful,
just as your Father also is merciful.” (Luke 6:35- 36 NKJV)
Beloved, God would never tell us to do something contrary to His own nature.
Finally, if God’s love is conditional, then there can be no such thing as unconditional love for two reasons:
First, nothing can exist apart from God, so unconditional love cannot exist apart from God.
Secondly, to point to any example of unconditional love, anywhere in the world, would be to make that love greater than God’s. I don’t think we want to make that case.
As I said at the beginning, we make God’s love conditional when our view of our relationship with Him is performance-driven. As long as we see ourselves as a dutiful slave instead of a beloved son or daughter, we won’t understand God’s unconditional love.
If we don’t know who we are, we will believe the lie of all lies that haunts the deepest part of our souls, ” I must do something so that God will love me.” We might not say it in those words, but our actions and reactions say it just the same.
God does not love like we do. This is why we need to express His love instead of our frail thread we call love. This is why He gave us His Spirit, so we could love Him and others with His love and without our conditions.