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Many people, probably even many Christians, think God's love is unconditional. And insofar as God extends his love to all people without distinction, it is true. But many have bought into the sentimental notion of unconditional love evidenced in the old popular song, "Though it makes him sad to see the way we live, he'll always say, 'I forgive.' " This is fuzzy romanticism and cheap grace, not the good news of Jesus Christ.

Is unconditional love the loftiest form of love? Consider three cases:

A mother is having a test of wills with her two-year-old. The young boy wants to continue playing, but it is time for bath and bed. Mom has already given him a five-minute grace period. Now she insists he will do as she says. If the child could speak articulately, he might say, "If you really loved me, you'd let me do what I want." As adults, we can identify with Mom here. She is expressing love, but is it unconditional? Yes, in the sense that she will love her son even if he disobeys. But no, in the sense that she is requiring conditions.

A harder case. Dick and Jane have been married for almost 20 years. But Jane has discovered that her husband has committed adultery, and Dick wants to continue the relationship. He also wants his wife to accept it and continue the marriage. What does real love mean for Jane in this situation? If she loves him unconditionally, won't she accept her husband on his terms as an expression of her love? Or will genuine love require Jane to say, "It's either me or her"? Authentic love requires conditions.

So we come to the third and ultimate case: the love of God, "greater far than tongue or pen can ever tell." Surely God's love is unconditional, right?

Yes, but … Yes, God loves all of humanity and offers ...

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ARTICLE: Is God's Love Unconditional?
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In the Magazine

July 17, 1995

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