“Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” (John 14:21)
God loves us unconditionally. The Bible tells us so.
When something is unconditional, it is absolute and without exception. It is, or it will happen, regardless of what else happens or what you do or don’t do.
Matthew 5:43-48 reveals God’s love to be perfect, and for both the just and unjust. God showed His perfect love dramatically by sending His Son to die for all of us while we were still sinners in rebellion against His Kingdom. (John 3:16; Romans 5:8; 1 John 2:2) He is “no respecter of persons”, and desires everyone to repent and come into everlasting life. (Acts 10:34; 2 Peter 3:9)
This is unconditional love, summarized by the apostle John in the statement: “God is love.” (1 John 4:8, 16) Love is not all that God is, for He is also sovereign, holy, righteous, wise and just. But because God is love, His love permeates everything else He is and everything He does. He cannot deny Himself. (2 Timothy 2:13)
Now for the paradox: although God loves us unconditionally, His unconditional love for us has conditions. The Bible tells us this as well.
When something has conditions, one thing depends on another. If “A” happens, then “B” will happen or “B” can happen, but if “A” doesn’t happen, don’t expect “B” to happen.
The Old Testament covenant of the law was all about conditions. If you obey, you will receive wonderful blessings, but if you disobey, you will be cursed. (Deuteronomy 28)
The New Testament covenant in Christ removed the conditions of the law, but did not remove all conditions. The easiest and most important example is the road to salvation. We are saved by grace – an incredible expression of the unconditional love of God – but only when we meet the condition of faith by trusting Jesus as our Savior Lord. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Now look at John 14:21, where Jesus promises that if we love Him by keeping His commandments, then both He and the Father will love us and Jesus will manifest Himself to us. Here the love of Jesus and the Father appear to be conditioned on our obedience of His commandments! And it is a condition Jesus repeats twice in the same discourse.
At John 14:23, Jesus says the Father will love us, and both He and the Father will make their home in us, if we love Him by keeping His word. At John 15:10, Jesus says we can abide in His love if we keep His commandments. Conditions!
To resolve this paradox of unconditional vs. conditional love, we need a better understanding of what love is.
Scripture commands that we love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. (Mark 12:30) Love relates to all those aspects of who we are.
We love with our mind as an ethical and moral choice, wanting the best for another because that is the right thing for us to want. We love with our heart by feelings of caring or compassion. We love with our soul, or will, by making choices that express the love in our mind and heart. Likewise, we love with our strength by actions that demonstrate our love.
Love is relational. Love with our mind and heart determines our attitude toward another. Love with our soul and strength then completes the relational connection by expressing and demonstrating that love to the one we love. The goal is to love from a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith, and to love in both deed and truth. (1Timothy 1:5; 1 John 3:18)
God loves all of us unconditionally with His heart and mind. But the glorious expressions and demonstrations of His love are, for our own good, subject to conditions. He loves us too much to reward continued sin and works of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16-25) Instead, He rewards those who seek Him by doing His will. (Hebrews 11:6; 2 John 1:8-9; Psalm 24:2-5)
Do you want to know the love of God, and not just know of it? Do you want Jesus to manifest Himself in your life? Do you want to have the Father and Son actively dwelling within you? Do you want to live each day breathing in the atmosphere of Christ’s love? Do you want to be filled with all the fullness of God? (Ephesians 3:17-19)
If you want this abundant life, then meet the conditions of God’s unconditional love. Express your love for Jesus by doing your best to learn and keep all His commandments. This isn’t legalism. This is wisdom. This is faith. (Hebrews 11:6)
God bless you, and God bless our community.