Is Love Unconditional?

TrainOne of the legacies of sin is the ever-present risk of mis-communication. Even people who speak the same language struggle to make themselves clear, and we all too often use words and phrases with the assumption that what we have said is what others have heard. Further, as western societies become ever more godless, words like love and tolerance, which even wilful rebels against the Lord want to own for themselves, change meaning, often coming to denote the exact opposite of their original accepted definitions. (For instance, nowadays tolerance is not understood to be the allowing of something of which one disapproves, which is what the word actually means, but rather the mere disapproving of something. If one disapproves of sexual immorality, be it straight or gay, yet freely accepts people’s legal right to indulge in such activity in private, and without being treated badly by others in any way because of so doing, then that is tolerance as the word has been historically understood. Today, however, one is increasingly labeled an intolerant bigot merely for disapproving of such, even though one is not trying to make it illegal or treating badly in any way those who indulge.) Indeed, with Western churches propagating every conceivable possible moral viewpoint, from biblical fundamentalism one the one hand through to even the deliberate appointing of both heterosexually immoral and gay leaders on the other, even the word Christian has become but a meaningless sound emanating from the mouths of countless people, all holding to entirely differing definitions of it.

Words, words, words

It is therefore time for us to start concentrating on carefully defining what we mean by just about everything we say. I am not averse to using such words as I have highlighted, of course not, but we must be very deliberately qualifying what we actually mean when we use them. And I think a good place to start is all this completely misleading nonsense that Christians keep spouting about God loving and accepting everyone just as they are. (Hmmm! How on earth am I going to get away with saying that then?)

The most serious and damaging way of misrepresenting the truth of something, or of mis-defining the meaning of a particular word, is to present but a part of its content or meaning, but not all. And nowhere is this done more than with the word love, and therefore also God’s love. Hence the way in which, with the help of countless leaders of the so-called Christian church, people who advocate and practise such things as abortion, sex outside of marriage, various perversions etc make reference to Jesus in such a way so as to make out that He would be standing with them in full approval of their ideas and what they do, whilst railing against the supposed bigotry of anyone who says that such things are wrong. And they do this because 1) Jesus is associated with love in the minds of unbelievers quite as much as in the minds of His people, and 2) it is their contention and belief that not only does love mean never having to say you’re sorry, it means never having to even accept that one is ever wrong. Regarding such things the only wrongdoing is saying that such things are wrong in the first place.

So let’s be very careful when we talk about God loving people just the way they are. It appears that what society is actually hearing is that Christianity teaches that God is soft on sin (probably doesn’t even believe in it) and doesn’t mind too much how people live. The truth, however, is rather that if those who don’t believe in Jesus do stay just the way they are, God is Himself going to throw them kicking and screaming into the Lake of Fire for eternity. Some kind of qualification is clearly needed then in order for the full-orbed impact of God’s love for people to be properly understood, even by Christians, and not misrepresented the way in which it currently is.

Of course God loves people just the way they are! Let’s get that straight right from the get-go. Indeed, if you don’t love someone just the way they are, but would love them if they were somehow different, then that is just another way of saying you don’t love them. So if the Lord didn’t love people just as they are, then it couldn’t be said that He loves them at all. Indeed, this is what His death on the cross is all about. The fact that He died for us precisely whilst we were yet sinners and still at enmity with Him is at the very heart of the gospel, but that death on the Cross alone has never saved anyone and never will. Salvation is not received  because Jesus died for us, in which case everyone would be saved, but when someone lays hold of Him by faith, thereby actually accepting the free gift that was won for them through His death.

But what happens next? Once someone is saved, then what? Well, the Bible teaches that then, having loved us and having died for us just the way were were, He then sets out to clean us up from our sin and filthiness and cause us to walk in obedience and holiness in His power and strength before Him. Here is the other side of the coin. As any good parent knows, you love your children just the way they are, even in their worst moments; but it is precisely because you love them just the way they are that you also want better for them, that they might be improved and become better children all the time. You love them just the way they are, of course, yet that very same love is  also the very same reason you don’t want them to stay just the way they are, but want them to improve and mature.

And so with the Lord and us. Precisely because He loves us just the way we are He wants to also change us and set us free from the power of sin in our lives that prevents us from being what we otherwise could far better be. He wants to deliver us from the evil in our hearts which sent Him to the cross in the first place, and bring us to greater holiness by which we come to see Him ever more clearly.

Careful What You Say

Don’t ever tell someone that God loves them just the way they are without telling them as well that the fact that He does so is why He also wants to free them from their sin, and to precisely not let them carry on being just the way they are. “Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth!” That’s the truth of the matter! It leaves no room whatsoever, whether in evangelising unbelievers, or in our fellowship together as believers, for the entirely wrong idea that we can just stick with our sins and that the Lord is somehow okay with us so doing.

I am very happy with the contention that the Lord loves us unconditionally. But if those words convey to you that unconditional love somehow means that continuing in sin is an alright proposition, then I cannot tell you how unhappy I am with it. But if in your mind it is simply one part of the equation that, unless love is unconditional it can’t actually be love at all, but that then, by very definition, it seeks the moral improvement of the one it has been unconditionally set upon, then I am a most happy bunny.

My very relationship with the Lord depends on the simple fact that He doesn’t love me any the more when I am being faithful, nor any the less when I am being disobedient. But I know too that, precisely because He does want the best for me, and because nothing hurts or damages me (and others) more than my sin, He will go all out to lead me in godliness and deal with me as His child, however drastically, in order to bring me (and others) to ultimate joy and happiness.

If we are to love each other just the way we are, then it means that we must be willing to crawl over broken glass in order to help each other get free from sin.

(Ah yes, the train! I just thought it was a nice picture! I took it just when we were staying near Chicago! Hope you like it! It certainly gave me a buzz!)

 

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5 thoughts on “Is Love Unconditional?

  1. As to the Amtrak trains here in America: There is a car near the rear of the train, I believe it is called the observation car which is a great place to converse with other passengers. Every time I have ever ridden Amtrak I visit this car as I have always had free reign with sharing Christ with others. Just something to remember for next time I suppose. Seems people are at ease who rides these trains…..

    I wrote a similar post once called “Deception through Definition.” I even asked a few saints years back to work upon making up a list of right and wrong definitions as you did with the word “tolerance.” Sadly, that never materialized.

    I surely agree with your points herein Beresford- especially the danger in not fully explaining the terms we use. I used to have a friend who was bent upon sharing Jesus with everyone he met. Only problem was he always pushed for “a decision for Christ” without ever adequately presenting the law to those he shared with. He would subsequently pronounce them saved before they were even convicted of their sins! Their is far too much of this type of evangelism as I’m sure you know.

    As you stated, our sinful selves almost guarantee a degree of miscommunication with others. It’s amazing how some people can “hear” what I am saying and writing and yet others can’t see or hear. More than once over the past few years I’ve literally had to part ways online with a professing believer who kept calling me out on what I never even said. Rarely is anything so irritating or frustrating- especially when they won’t even believe you when you try to explain yourself time and time again.

    The apostle John spoke these sobering words in Revelation 22:18, 19;
    “I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophesy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues of this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophesy; God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book”

    Only one question remains and its addressed to everyone who continues to redefine God’s words unabated. In light of the antonyms most closely associated with the term “definition” being ambiguity, vagueness and nonsense, “Do you actually believe God is going to overlook your careless use of what He actually says, or will you rather be the recipient of His judgments above?”

    Our choice proves who we love unconditionally.

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    • Many thanks for your contribution. Wise words indeed. To the extent we are not deliberately and intentionally pursuing biblical truth in all matters we will inevitably become increasingly deceived. By the way, it is one of my ambitions to get a real long distance Amtrak trip in one day and to get up in one of those observation cars. Belinda, Bethany and I recently watched a series of programmes on TV that followed a guy (a well known Scottish comedian and actor) doing train trips all round America. Wonderful! There is another similar series we we follow where one of our famous ex-politicians does the same thing!

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      • Would love to hangout with you and/or the family on one of those trips sometime. I’ve gone cross country a couple of times myself and I’ve always found those times to be special. Just leave the politicians at home though. I don’t have enough character not to refute the lies or faith they place in their own problem solving skills!

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    • Thanks for the kind words. People find it amusing that I like trains so much, but of course it’s a very biblical thing to do. When Isaiah saw the Lord in all His glory he reported that He was ‘high and lifted up’ and that ‘His train filled the Temple.’

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