I’m at the airport this morning getting ready for my trip to Denver, and then continuing next week to Richmond, VA. This is an amazing trip with lots of meetings for reasons as diverse as sharing the journey, consulting with a publishing company that is looking for an appreciation for the “Dones”, to meeting with some people from Kenya who might be able to help us formulate a development strategy for Pokot, and finally to helping a friend with his novel. It will be 12 days with a host of meetings and connections that I hope will advance God’s kingdom in the world.
As I go, I thought I’d leave you with this exchange that explains why I’ve never liked the term, “unconditional love.”
Eileen: I enjoyed your books He Loves Me and Finding Church so much and can’t wait to get the latter one on audio book. Well the question I have that I struggle with a little bit us is Gods Love unconditional? My husband and I listened to a message titled “choose life” in which he suggests that there is no such thing as an unconditional love. Even Gods love for us is conditional. Some of the examples he gives are, “ask and you shall receive, knock and it will be opened, you are my friends If you keep my commandments. Those are all conditions he claims. He loves us despite of how we are, which I do agree with, God is love but not unconditional I struggle with. At least that’s what I heard from his message. Wanted to hear your thoughts on that.
My response: When you hear someone teach and it doesn’t sit right with you, there’s usually a good reason—his Spirit within you. When your yuck meter goes off, trust it! In this case it is well-set.
To take Jesus’ invitation for us to engage his Father and turn it into a condition for us to earn his love is poor scholarship at best and manipulative at worst. Seeking him is not a condition for us love, it’s an invitation to draw near to him so we can see how he’s making himself known to us.
You’ll notice that I don’t use the term “unconditional love.” I know a lot of people like that term, and though I like what they often mean by it, I don’t like using it because it gives the impression that something called “conditional love” actually exists. It does not. You either love someone or you don’t. If you can stop loving them because they do something wrong, stupid or hurtful, then you didn’t love them in the first place. God’s love is not conditional, he loves us all the time, even at our most lost and broken. His love never changes. The drama of our story shifts when we begin to discover how loved we are and then respond to him in a way that allows our engagement with that love to grow.
But that doesn’t mean that our actions don’t have consequences. We reap what we sow, but that isn’t God ceasing to love us, it’s the way he made the world work so that we would learn from our mistakes and that our brokenness would invite us back to him. He keeps loving us through the consequences of our own choices, always making a way for us back to his heart.
Eileen: I just wanted you to know that what you said makes perfect sense…that’s the way I’ve carried out my life, but when you’re repeatedly told you have to be in church, you start to believe that your the one doing something wrong. I’m so grateful that God has put you in my path, if for no other reason than to confirm what I’ve always believed—you can win people to the lord by just loving them.
Amen to that!