How can an unconditionally loving God have conditions?
One of the most amazing things about God is His unconditional love.
Unconditional: not subject to any conditions. Not earned, not deserved. You cannot gain it, you cannot lose it, you cannot justify why you receive it.
God’s unconditional love is available to us independent of what we do, simply because He chooses to love us without limit with measure and without prerequisites. He loved us even before we knew of Him. He sent his son to die for us before we were even born. This is cause for much rejoicing because the truth is, we could NEVER earn or deserve His love. We could never do enough good things or achieve enough successes to merit the love of God. Knowing this, God did not set us up for failure, but instead made his unconditional love available to all.
However, throughout scripture we see conditional statements:
“Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine,” Exodus 19:5
“See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse – the blessing if you obey the commands of the LORD your God that I am giving you today; the curse if you disobey the commands of the LORD your God and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods, which you have not known.” Deuteronomy 11:26-28
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:13-15
“If you make the Most High your dwelling – even the LORD, who is my refuge – then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent.” Psalm 91:9-10
[Jesus said] “For ifyou forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Fatherwill also forgive you. But ifyou do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14-15
“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:30-34
“Ifwe confess our sines, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9
These conditions are not to be confused as conditions for God’s love. His love is certain and is without conditions. Conditional statements in scripture are not tied to His love but are tied to His interactions and connections with us. Many times in scripture we will see “If you… then I”, or “First… then” statements. Out of His desire for connection with us, God is providing insight as to how we can interact with Him and participate in what He is doing.
This is part of the opportunity we have in relationship with Him. We are not silent players in this game but active participants, interacting with God. Consider conditions we give our own children.
“Ifyou eat the rest of your vegetables, then you can have ice cream.”
“Ifyou finish your homework, then you can go out and play.”
“First clean your room and then you can have this reward.”
“Ifyou don’t stop [xyz] you will get a spanking.”
As everyone knows, these conditions are not tied to our love for them. Instead, we are teaching and training them, allowing them to make right choices and then we respond to them accordingly. We are not looking to smite them or withhold good gifts, but are interacting in our relationship with them, demonstrating that what they do impacts how we can respond to them.
It is the same with Christ. He is not giving us burdens to carry but is telling us how we can walk in ways that are pleasing to Him, ways that prompt Him to intercede and intervene on our behalf. Let this be encouraging to us! God is treating us like His children for that is what we are!