God demands a genuinely repentant heart, confession of sin, and restitution for one to receive His saving, redeeming love. God sets conditions before experiencing the love provided by Christ's death on Calvary's cross. If those conditions are not met, then a mortal does not know God's forgiving, merciful, grace-filled love.
God knows nothing of a willy-nilly love, a weak-type of love, a limp illogical love. God sets conditions.
You won't find unconditional love anywhere in the Bible. It's just not there.
It's an "American doctrine." Something like "everything's comin' up roses" and "walk on the sunny side of the street." It's a love popularized on Oprah, for example.
The Bible sets forth a God who loves in order to locate a repentant soul. In theology, it is called "prevenient love," that is, love that goes before saving love. (Latin: "Venio" = "to go" and "pre" = "before).
Then when God finds that genuinely repentant soul, He extends His saving love. Until that soul repents, God does not provide that soul with saving love. Repeat: Until that soul repents, God does not provide that soul with saving love.
A parent who uses reasoning when dealing with a wayward child will follow God's example. That parent will not provide unconditional love because that enables the waywardness of the child. That parent will provide a "waiting love" until that child repents. Then that parent will extend to the genuinely contrite child saving love, that is, receiving love.
People who unconditionally love any other person regardless of his moral standards enable that other person to continue in sin, a crippled state, rebellion or whatever. The Bible instructs the believer to inform the wayward one of his sin in hopes that repentance will follow. Nowhere does the Bible commission believers to extend willy-nilly love, otherwise known as "unconditional love."
If a woman is married to an alcoholic, she must show him tough love. In other words, she must provide him with a "waiting love" until he truly repents, changes his ways to sobriety and lives the life. Then she can provide him with saving love, that is, totally receiving love.
By remaining in denial about his alcoholism, even at times drinking with him in a social occasion, she is enabling his disease. By doing nothing to assist him toward sobriety, she enables his disease. A true wife's love will be tough, warn her husband of his accountability before God, and pray for his change of heart.
If a mother has a child who is sexually promiscuous, she must practice tough love, that is, waiting love until the child sincerely repents, changes his ways, and lives the life of integrity. Then she can provide him with saving love, that is, totally receiving love.
By acting as if her child is "okay," the mother enables his promiscuity. By saying nothing to him about his sin, she extends his sinful lifestyle. He thereby concludes that if mother is accepting, there is no hurry in quitting his promiscuity. He then misuses his mother's "love" for his own opportunism. A true mother's love will be tough, warn her son of his accountability before God, and pray for his change of heart.
In ministry, I have seen too many times earnest believers aid their children's evil ways by telling me that they, the parents, believe it's Christian to provide wayward ones with unconditional love.
I respond by counseling that believers must practice tough love, that is, waiting love until the child turns from his evil ways unto God's holy way. Then the believers can extend saving love, that is, totally receiving love.
When the Old Testament Hebrews turned against God for pagan idols, God did not provide them with unconditional love. God warned them that if they did not repent, live the holy life, He would destroy their nation and put them in bondage to heathen rules.
The Hebrews refused to repent; therefore, Father God destroyed their nation and brought them under the pagan rulers' heels.
Did God provide a willy-nilly love to the Hebrews? No. Did He put up with any evil they wanted to practice and still put His arm around them? No. Did He put up with their idol worship, pagan symbols, heathen practices? No. God brought judgment upon them. That was God's tough love in His attempt to break their stubborn hearts to repentance.
It's a sick religion when a Christian testifies to holding to unconditional love. That is a New Age teaching that has absolutely nothing to do with the Christian faith. The Bible in fact prohibits unconditional love by teaching otherwise.
When Peter confessed His sins of betrayal, Christ forgave Him. When Early Church sinners repented of their spiritual rebellion to God and the apostle Paul, both forgave them, warning them however never to stray again.
In Paul's letters to the churches, he constantly castigates those who were "falling away." He warns them of dire consequences if they knowingly continue in sin. Paul was playing the spiritually paternal role toward his "soul children" in the Mediterranean congregations.
Paul never counseled the parishioners in those churches that no matter what they did, they were "okay" under God. Paul never wrote to them that their soul rebellion was all right in God's eyes. Paul practiced tough love, a waiting love. When the parishioners repented to live the holy life, then Paul extended God's saving love, a totally receiving love.
When Old Testament Hebrews were enslaved by Assyrians and Babylonians akin to that of Egyptian bondage hundreds of years prior, some repented. God looked upon those repentant souls to lead them back to the old haunts to rebuild Jerusalem's walls and the Holy City's temple.
If God showed unconditional love to every mortal born, Adolf Hitler would be in heaven. Idi Amin would be in heaven. Joseph Stalin would be in heaven. Saddam Hussein would be in heaven. According to the Bible, they are in hell. According to known accounts, they never repented of their sins so as to find God's mercy; therefore, they consigned their eternities to hell.
When a thinking Christian practices "waiting love," he is often derided by others as being too hard on the sinner. He is often criticized for not being "loving enough," crusty, legalistic and so forth. Not so. It is just that the logical Christian thinks instead of playing weak willy-nilly. He thinks. He actually thinks matters through until they make biblical sense. He thinks.
In thinking matters through to make biblical sense, that logical believer knows that to love unconditionally the wayward spouse or child or neighbor or friend is only furthering the sin. As long as believers act as if everything is all right when around the wayward one, how can conviction come upon that wayward soul?
Christ spoke pointedly to the wayward souls of his own religion. He did not show them unconditional love. He was blunt. He warned them that by their writing their own religion apart from Scripture, they were children of the devil, they were whitewashed tombstones, they were cups with clean exteriors but dirty insides.
What was Christ exhibiting when speaking that plainly to the wayward? He was extending tough love in hopes that the publicans would repent of their evil ways, turn to God, and live the righteous life.
So Christ expects thinking believers to do likewise; otherwise, they are contributing to the backslidden state of the one living in knowing sin. And for that, the Christian too will be held accountable.
There are those in my clan who are knowingly sinning. I pray for them. I love them with a waiting love. At the same time, I warn them of God's judgment when they will be accountable for their stubborn rebellion.
Others in the clan have said I am "too hard" on these lost souls. Of course, I don't agree with that assessment. Consequently, I will not acknowledge that "unconditional love" approach for it makes relatives appear as condoning the lost souls' lifestyles. Such is abhorrent. Yet it goes on in numerous clan gatherings.
Knowing I will answer to God for my every word and deed, I cannot be party to an appearance of acceptance of knowing sin in those for whom I daily pray.
J. Grant Swank Jr.