Correct me if I'm wrong. It seems like in the scriptures God's love is conditional. I understand God is love. And people have free will and must choose whether or not they will love God back by following him. So am I correct when I say God's love is conditional ? Please elaborate. -- Mr. B
You are right: there are conditions. At least there are conditions in the way God’s love is expressed towards us. In fact, the word “unconditional” isn’t a word found in the Bible. We can get tangled up when we try to interpret scripture through a filter we have superimposed on the text.
Some people, trusting divine love’s “unconditional” nature, imagine they are “once saved, always saved.” But it does matter what we do. In fact, Jude 21 urges us to remain in Christ’s love. Even though nothing (external) can separate us from that love (Romans 8:39), the Lord will never override our free will. Both testaments attest to this fact.
- If you pay attention to these laws and are careful to follow them, then the Lord your God will keep his covenant of love with you, as he swore to your ancestors. He will love you and bless you... (Deut 7:12-13).
- Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. (John 14:23).
The Bible speaks of God, on occasion, withdrawing his love from his people: I have withdrawn my blessing, my love and my pity from this people. (Jer 16:5)
Why would God take back his pity, blessing, and love? For some arbitrary reason? Not at all. Read the book of Jeremiah. It is clear that the Lord yearns for the relationship. Yet disobedience can fracture the relationship, and then God's love is withdrawn.
So why do we like the word "unconditional"? Perhaps because we don't feel safe, and are afraid the Lord might withdraw his love. Of course God wants the best for us. We can and should rest content and at peace in his love. The Lord will never stop loving us, in one sense: he wants the best for us. Yet he will indeed stop loving us, in another sense: when the relationship is ruined -- only one party is authentic in its care for the other. In this case he has no choice but to withdraw.
Let's not be so affected by mushy, churchy sentimentality that we buy into an unhealthy view of God. He is holy, and he requires that we love only him -- with all our being (Deut 6:4-5).