When discussing unconditional love, how often do we hear ignorant words such as these?
- ‘True love is unconditional, any other love is not love’.
- ‘There is no such thing as conditional love. If it’s conditional … it’s not love.’
At a glance these sweet, warm fuzzy words may sound attractive but the whole belief hangs on the definition of the word ‘love’. Who is the author of true love? This is the question and depending on who or what you build your life upon will determine what love means to you.
If a Jesus follower confesses Him as their Lord while holding the above quotes as their value system then they might just as well go find a new God. The two are simply not compatible as the scriptures teach us exactly what love is. God is love and in His love He created mankind with free will hoping they would return love to Him and walk in relationship with Him. Jesus’ life on earth, His teachings and interactions with others was God sending us heaven’s manual of restoration to our original design. We were created to walk face to face with God and inherit our individual birthrights to be expressed on the earth. Jesus not only taught about love with His words but also demonstrated it with His life. We cannot comprehend this love completely until we understand both what He said and did.
God’s desire for all His creation and His people is unconditional in that He loves us because we are made in His likeness. When man fell from the purity of the Garden of Eden and from the privilege of face-to-face intimacy with God because of doubting His incredible love for them, mankind needed redeeming once for all. God sent His beloved Son, the acceptable mediator in His great love to us all to restore us to Him. It remains God’s primary goal to see the nature and character of His son Jesus in each one of us and by doing so we honour not only Jesus but also the Father with the Holy Spirit to guide us. By engaging in this process with sincerity we will eventually see that the original declarations above are false.
Lets face it. We hear the unconditional love mantra year in and year out in nearly all religious circles that thump cheap grace and feel good emotions on tap. It is simply not Jesus’ agenda. Let’s take a closer look.
We need not go very far in the gospels to find Jesus turning darkness to light, exposing evil to the love of God and healing where sickness once ruled. We can also see that he walked by many and was not moved by everyone. Was this unloving? Perhaps some of us might secretly believe that Jesus was choosing a select few to heal or deliver and maybe we might even dare to conclude that his love was conditional. Certainly we don’t have to read but a few incidents to find Him raising the bar to those who claimed to be ‘righteous’. However it was shown through their encounter with the Son of God that their righteousness was their own and not one that glorified God.
Consider the encounter with the rich young ruler (Mark 10:17-22). In the end we must ask ourselves while examining Jesus’ conduct and interaction with this man. Was this unconditional love’? Your answer will reveal whether you are seeking to have Jesus as your example, which may require an action from you or if you primarily want Him to accept only your verbal allegiance without conforming to His image. Our responses are our choices and our decisions as to whether we will comply with heaven’s agenda so that we may a inherit ALL that God has for us during our time on earth. This is known as our birthright, our inheritance in His kingdom.
Sadly the young man only wanted to hear Jesus say something that would not COST him so much. Jesus brought this man, as He will do for us all, to a place of choosing between this earthly inheritance or heaven’s. In essence we might say that Jesus’ love was ‘conditional’ for the man chose to leave and turned and followed Jesus no more. We can also share in the Lord’s broken heart as Jesus watched him leave as we read – ‘for Jesus loved him’.
Jesus gave him a condition but He still ‘loved him’. This is God’s demonstration of love in word and deed.
The young man could not deny it. He was reduced to a choice and like him we also will be brought to a place, that fork in the road, where we must make a decision. There will be no in between or hanging in a lukewarm middle ground where we deceive ourselves into believing that it is righteous to stay in the grey zone of loving the world and loving Jesus at the same time. God is a jealous lover and He will not share us with the things of this world.
In summary, Jesus offered the young man love but presented him a condition to fulfill so that he might fully enter into a love relationship with Him. He chose not to fulfill the condition and so he did not experience it.
Turning the tables on us who believe we are so purely devoted to Jesus and claim his undying ‘unconditional love’, let us examine ourselves. I wonder how many of us who chant this self-righteous formula are utterly convinced of our own righteousness? God is true love and most certainly He does put conditions on us, for He personalizes our call to come to Him most intimately. So then, will we come face-to-face, alone, one on one with our Creator? Or will we be guilty of ‘conditional love’ ourselves toward Him in that we refuse to be exclusive. Will we defile the inner chamber with other lovers (spouses, children or ministries), idols (Christian leader, gifting or bodies) and religious addictions?
We have been given a divine invitation into the heart of God’s love but we refuse to come alone. Would you allow another human being to come into the bridal chamber with you? I hardly think so. Yet we demand God’s ‘unconditional love’ when it is convenient for us. Again, there is no such notion of unconditional intimacy. It is our own creation. Here we realize that Christendom is hiding behind this mantra, which was summarized in our opening statements.
Mankind’s invitation to intimacy with God was conditional from the beginning. It was an invitation, which required a yes/no response. The same invitation exists for us today to step into the limitless possibilities of a relationship with Jesus. Will we meet the conditions to experience His endless love?