Unconditional Love? I don’t think so.

It is the fashion of our generation to talk and sing about unconditional love. But where did this concept come from? It is nowhere in the Old Testament. It is not in the New Testament. None of the early church writers mention it.  Nor the Puritans nor the Reformers. Wesley, Spurgeon, Billy Graham. None of the famous preachers or theologians. So how did it suddenly appear, what does it mean and why do we say it?

You may be surprised to discover that the phrase was first recorded in 1934 by an atheistic psychoanalysis called Fromm in nazi Germany, in his book ‘The Art of Loving’.  It went on to become popular among the swinging sixties culture where ‘free love’ became the byword. It was a generation that started to cast off restraints. It was the forerunner of our present society of liberal morals where anything goes. Any kind of love, no conditions.

It was first picked up by Christian songwriters in 1986 when The Altar boys sang:

Give me your unconditional love,
The kind of love I deserve.

I am sure you can see a flaw here. Firstly, we do not deserve God’s love; it comes to us by his grace and mercy.  Secondly, it come with specific conditions. The song goes on to say that we should not attempt to correct our brothers but love them with ‘non-reacting everlasting love’. It sounds idealistic but it is not biblical and it does not work. For example an abused spouse cannot be expected to remain in that dangerous situation in order to show unconditional love to her abuser.

God’s conditional love is built on that small powerful word ‘if’.  God loves our nation and IF we humble ourselves and pray he will heal our land. God warns the world of the consequences of ignoring Him. Pharaoah was told of the consequences of not obeying God. ‘If’ is the language of consequences.

God loves and forgives us relentlessly and IF we repent and return to him we enjoy the benefits of that love. That is God’s conditional love. It is for you and me and everyone. We accept His love, grace and mercy; it is not presumption.

The problem with preaching unconditional love is that we can start to think that sin does not really matter. We say that God forgives all of our sins – our past, present and future sins.  Here we can start to be presumptious again if we are not careful. That forgiveness is closely linked to genuine repentance and change of heart. Catholics understand the need for regular confession. Of course verbal confession on its own is not enough. The regular confession of the Anglicans in the Book of Common Prayer had a profound purpose when it was written and it still serves to remind believers of living a pure accountable life before God.

It is God’s conditional love which keeps us in our weakness and waywardness coming back to his pure SACRIFICIAL LOVE. Now that IS in the bible.

Walk in love, as Christ has also loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.  Eph 5;2 NKJV

1 thought on “Unconditional Love? I don’t think so.”

  1. Wow! I never knew this!
    That’s quite fascinating. I guess I have always thought that “unconditional love” was a biblical thing and in terms of God.
    I’m going to look more into this.

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