Unconditional Love

The inexorable, undeniable logic of many things in the Bible escape our understanding for only one reason: we don’t like what it says!  

We don’t want to hear that God is different from what we would like Him to be. In series two, I addressed a number of things that irk us about His way of thinking.  There are probably many more. We don’t want to know that there is a wrathful side to Him. We don’t like His extreme and uncompromised righteousness.  We don’t appreciate His attitude towards child discipline, or women submitting to their husbands, or husbands having to lay down their lives for their wives.  We don’t comprehend servant leadership, or carrying our cross, or the idea of unorganised religion.  We stumble over the message that proclaims Christ’s blood sacrifice is the only way to make eternal life possible. And some of the extremely violent episodes in the Old Testament make us cringe with horror and make God seem like a mythical stranger who is hardly capable of demonstrating love as we perceive it. The influence of today’s modern, secular cultural values make God’s stand on these things seem outdated, even unreasonable. 

So we close our minds to the things beyond our understanding.  We pretend that those unpalatable bits aren’t in the Bible, or we try to convince ourselves that God has changed from being a rigid upholder of His own standards to a tolerant Accepter of our imperfections. We pretend He has really lightened up. We stumble along in our ignorance, hoping that by reinterpreting the Gospel message we will get away with our wrong-doing, reasoning that the message of forgiveness will cover our multitude of recidivistic sins. We deliberately overlook the conditions He specified for His forgiveness to take effect. We toy with the concept of unconditional love and ascribe that idea to a divine being Who is, in many ways, a figment of our own imagination.  We don’t like God just as He is, so we feel justified in pretending He’s different, not realising that the pretence results in us worshipping a false god.

So here I want to examine in-depth the true nature of love as determined by God Himself. (This is an extension of my essay on "Christian Love and Unity" in series 1.)  I want to try to understand this seemingly irreconcilable truth: How can God destroy billions of people He claimed to love while they were sinners, just because they didn’t do what He wanted them to while they had the chance.

Let me preface this essay by saying that I already know that what you’re about to read will be very controversial. I believe that is because our minds have become subconsciously programmed from childhood to accept certain values as absolute truth, and many of these values are the product of wishful thinking on the part of our parents, pastors and peers, as well as the influence of the entertainment industry.  I have run by Christian friends my interpretation of some of the elements of love and have heard screams of protest.  It is not my objective to upset anyone, or cause controversy for the sake of it. And anything I say comes with the proviso that I can be wrong.  I am genuinely trying to come to terms with God’s will and become acquainted with His expectations of His followers.  So if you do not wish to have your own preconceptions challenged, please, do not read any further. If you do read on, please also do me the courtesy of reading to the end, as it is impossible to fully explore all the elements at once. 


“God is love” (1John 4: 9,16) is one of those Bible verses known generally throughout the community, many not even realizing it is a Bible verse.  When I was young, the hippy movement was very happy to make it one of their catch-cries. The statement is totally inoffensive in isolation and appeals to anyone wanting to relate in some way to another person, whether that be in a social, sexual or humane sense.  If God is love (agape), than surely we must at least endeavour to come to grips with His design of that concept, as it will give us valuable insight into the Person with whom we claim to want to share eternity.

Sharing eternity with someone who has a different view on what love truly entails would be a recipe for disaster, a marriage to the Lamb bound for divorce.  I personally have trouble believing that God will invite millions of people into heaven who have a screwed up understanding of love, leading inevitably to another rebellion against Him.


"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”(John 3:16)

“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)

"Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in (to eternity) by it.” (Matthew 7:13)

Obviously God passionately loved His creation right from the beginning, and He continued to love us even after everything went wrong. He is ever so patient and hopeful that as many as possible may be saved. But His love is not unconditional.  He doesn’t want anyone to perish, but the unarguable truth is that some will.  What are those conditions that hopefully will save us from destruction?  One is that we must forgive all others, in order to appropriate forgiveness for ourselves.  Another is that we must accept Christ’s sacrifice as the only way to salvation.  A third is genuine repentance. Believing in your heart and mind the truth of the gospel message could well be an essential, presenting a debate concerning the necessity for our ability to reason and reach understanding. It can be argued that believer’s baptism is crucial. And it is possible that demonstration of a change in our behaviour (works) following conversion could well be an expectation. There could be more. Some of the scriptures laying down these conditions are hereunder:

(Forgiving others)
"But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." (Matthew 6:15)

(Salvation through Christ)
"I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved." (John 10:9)  

"Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)

(Believer’s baptism )
"He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned." (Mark 16:16)

"And Jesus answered and said to them, "Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things?  I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish." (Luke 13:3)

"The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel." (Mark 1:15) 

(Repentance and believer’s baptism)
"Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."  (Acts 2:38)

"But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)  

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.” (1 Peter 3:15)

(New behaviour)  
"He who does not love does not know God, for God is love."(1 John 4:8)
"For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also." (James 2:26)

"Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’" (Matthew 7:22-23)

"Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God." (1 Corinthians 6:9)


We don’t like to hear these statements, because we have been brought up to believe that God’s love is unconditional.  Our minds tell us our sins are covered by Christ’s blood, so our sinful behaviour is now not recognised by the Father. And this is absolutely true!

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.”(2 Corinthians 5:17-19)

“And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:14 )

What is not true is the way our human reasoning comes to terms with that.  It has been a popular sermon theme that God cannot see our sin anymore, as it is hidden by the righteousness of Christ.  To me, it doesn’t make sense that an all-knowing God suddenly limits His own knowledge following our conversion, in a deliberate self-deluding exercise.  (As far as I know, “Love is blind” is not a Bible verse!) What doesn’t make sense is the idea that an all-powerful God will risk further rebellion and spiritual chaos in an eternal marriage.  That surely is the exclusive domain of love-struck teenagers and hopelessly idealistic adults here on earth.  (I believe with all my heart that the biblical concept of “making the blind see” has both a literal and a metaphorical meaning.) God is not a fool and will not enter a marriage doomed to fail.

So what happens if we accept Jesus as our Saviour, and yet continue in sin? Will heaven be out of reach?  There are some damning declarations, sure to put the fear of God into any believer. Check out these:

“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.” (Hebrews 6:4-6), 

“For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.” (Hebrews 10:26-27).

Blow me down!  These are strong statements! Yet there is no way we can ever hope to live up to the perfection of God’s righteousness while we struggle along here on earth, even with the help of the Holy Spirit, as our own human spirits keep getting in the way.  If I am expected to have lived a sinless life from the time I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Saviour, going on for forty years ago, I am done for! It all starts to look like an impossible dream, doomed to fizzle out upon waking.  How on earth can we come to terms with these unachievable demands and seemingly incompatible and mutually exclusive standards? It is part of the reason for writing this essay. It feels like I’m half-way up trying to climb a cliff face, with no safety rope and no strength left in my hands or legs.  But I am determined to find the answer. Somewhere, somehow, the two extremes mustcome together and merge into a pattern that works, not just for me, but for everyone!

The only thing that does make sense, so far, is that our surrender to Christ upon conversion results in a change of heart. And that’s where the process of changeon our part begins!  

But what if there is no time for change to take effect for the dying man in hospital, who accepts Christ minutes before passing on to the next world?  What if we die before we are ready for eternity? 

AND WHAT DOES ALL THIS HAVE TO DO WITH GOD’S LOVE? It appears abundantly clear that those people God loves while they are yet sinners, will nevertheless be destroyed if they don’t come to love Him in return before they die:

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

“And they were judged, each one according to his works.  Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:11-15)

Correct me if I’m wrong, but to my way of thinking, that means God’s love is NOT everlasting for those sinners. And it is not unconditional.  And it is not without expectation. God will only spend eternity with those of us who truly want to be with Him forever.  And it will be on His terms, not ours.  It means that agape love, by its very nature, if it is going to work at all, must be reciprocated, a two-way street, flowing back and forth in order to sustain its essence.

I don’t like to mince words. I like to call a spade a spade.  I like to put words to the questions most of us are afraid to ask.  So here goes: The bit, in all of that, that is extremely controversial, something that at first hearing sounds almost blasphemous, is the seemingly awful conclusion that, to some extent, divine love is what we would call selfish.  (I am sure that right there the objections become loudly vocal.)

Love only works when both parties get something out of it! Let me tell you, it goes right against the grain of everything I would like to believe myself. Much as I would like to subscribe to the idea of God’s unconditional love, I can’t find it in the scriptures. God is God. He’s calling the shots here. Besides, He has theright to be selfish, we don’t.  Nearly every covenant He has ever made with Man has had conditions attached to it. The purpose of this essay is to truly grasp the nature of God’s love, then compare it to love as experienced by us.  And to do that, we have to take our heads out of the sand.

First, let’s never underestimate agape love: it is full-on for our time here on earth. Jesus Himself instructed us to love our enemies, who surely don’t return our love or they wouldn’t be enemies anymore (Matthew 5:44). The same way, God loves all the people He has created and placed on this earth, until no hope or opportunity is left for them to have a change of heart.  

Jesus Himself proclaimed: “Greater love has no man than this: that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)  He commanded us to love one another the way He loved us (John 13:34). Two thousand years ago a very special boy was born.  His name was Jesus. He was God in human flesh. Thirty-three years later that same child, by then a fully grown man, died a human death on our behalf. It was the greatest demonstration of love this world has ever seen. It ought to bring tears to our eyes that anyone should be willing to do that for us. He laid down His life for His friends. And we are His friends if we keep His commandments (John 15:14). God’s love is inestimable and enormous beyond imagination, yet it is not eternal for everyone. 

Maybe the wishful concept of unconditional love is the product of our own insecurity.


We all love imperfectly. We are selfish in a way that blatantly ignores Jesus’ instructions and expectations. I want to know whether that is a character flaw, the product of our sinful nature, the result of the fall, or whether it is a teaching parable of God’s own love. I want to find out whether it is that way because God wants us to learn something about Him from it, or whether the standard God expects from us is different from what He Himself is prepared to demonstrate.  I want to understand God’s mind on the matter. How can we love our enemies, when we often have trouble loving some of our own brothers and sisters in Him, those who may have personality problems, or suffer from mental illness, or those who believe differently from our own convictions?  Even bad people love their own (Matthew 5:46).  How are we any different? 

In my essay "Created in His Image" 
I made a case for the idea that the love between a man and a woman is the image of God’s heart’s desire, something planted inside us to help us understand what He wants for Himself. God’s very nature is reflected in all of His creation, so that man has no excuse for denying His existence:


“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)

So again it makes sense that the feelings of love we experience could be there, in part, to help us understand God and His will.  And here is where conflict arises between our preconceived ideals and the plain truth. 

When a man meets a woman and desires her for his wife, or the other way around, our human perceptions would like us to believe that we marry because we love the other person, a totally selfless motive. (There seems to be a part of us that believes us to be capable of extraordinarily ‘saintly’ behaviour.) The truth is that we marry because we long to be loved.  (I expect to hear more shouts of protest here!) If we are truly honest with ourselves, consciously or unconsciously, weseek the ‘high’ generated by the adoration of the other person.  We want to be loved by a particular person, the one whom we have come to admire. Forget about marriages of convenience, of which there are many, and let’s concentrate solely on those marriages which ostensibly result from people falling in love. (We couldsacrifice ourselves by marrying a person who needs us but doesn’t love us, solely because we love them. But would we?  And, say, we went through with the union, what secret hopes would fill our heart? Surely the main one would be that our selfless sacrifice in caring for their need would eventually cause them to love us in return?) Let’s be brutally honest here: with the possible exception of some sociopathic misfits, we all want to be loved; in fact we NEED to be loved

If it is one-sided, it rarely works. If the woman adores the man, but the man is uncommitted, the marriage is bound to fail.  If the man adores the woman, but she is indifferent, there is no way the union will last. So whether we like it or not, love between a man and a woman is conditional - it only really works if it is reciprocal. I acknowledge there are, and have been in the past, many sacrificial, one-sided relationships, but inevitably if the love is not returned there is something vital missing, making true intimacy impossible.  And then, whilst technically the legal union may go on, I believe that in God’s eyes a divorce has already taken place.

Of course, we thereby enter into a very dangerous area, where we start talking about expectations of one person ‘completing’ the other. This can very quickly degenerate into the belief that the marriage is there to ‘meet one another’s needs’.  How many marriages fail because the needs of one person or the other are not met? And this has the potential to result in a cesspool of manipulative tactics and demands for performance that can totally destroy a relationship. Again, we struggle with our preconceptions about unconditional love, and meditate on the possibility of finding happiness if we could only love without wanting anything in return.  But are we kidding ourselves? What is that vital, enigmatic ingredient in love that simultaneously makes it the most beautiful element in the universe, as well as one of the most abused, destructive and dangerous elements?

So let’s shift our attention to a totally different kind of love: the love of a parent for their offspring. Most of us would like to believe that the love we have for our children will last into eternity.  If I asked for a hands-up, I am sure I would receive a resounding ‘yes’ vote. Most of us love our kids to bits.  The amount of unacceptable behaviour we are prepared to put up with sometimes boggles the mind.  We would genuinely give our lives to save them.   We would like to think this love is everlasting and that not even the gates of death could affect it in the slightest. Those of us with wonderful, well-behaved, respectful and caring offspring cannot conceive any different.

But imagine a recalcitrant and rebellious child, who refuses to have anything to do with biblical teaching, turns atheist, lives a totally self-absorbed life, then dies unrepentant. The prodigal son has nothing on this kid.  Memories of children in eternal separation would fill heaven with mind-numbing heartache.  I cannot believe that God would allow such recollections to linger, to mar forever the constructs of eternity.  Truth be told, I don’t believe our heavenly relationship with those of our offspring who do make it will in any way reflect the nature of parenthood, just as our relationship with our earthly spouse will be completely different (Matthew 22:30). If we cannot remember those of our children who didn’t accept Jesus as their Saviour, then neither can the love we had for them be everlasting.


Now it is time to look at the giving side of love. God loved us so much, He gave His only begotten Son to die a human death for us. It was a gift.  His love had to be expressed.  Just as faith without works is dead, so love without expression is dead.  

So let’s look again at human love. Is there a parallel here as well?  When two people fall in love, their very first impulse is to shower each other with gifts.  We are out to impress.  But something happens to the initial euphoria, (which is often just a hormonal response to sexual attraction), and something else takes its place.  What replaces it is hopefully something far more stable, reliable and enduring than hormones.  It should be a deep and intimate connection on many levels, a connection which makes each partner care for the other’s welfare more than their own. It should make them willing to give their life to save the other.  If true love is there, the gifts keep coming, because, in that mysterious web of human affection, we all NEED to love someone else in order to make life worthwhile.  Without someone else to lavish love upon, life sometimes seems empty and meaningless and selfish. Certainly something major is missing.  We weredesigned to be in loving relationship.  It truly is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). The expression of love is essential to the very fabric of the universe, built into its dynamics by a genius Creator, who understands absolutely everything.
So if love can only survive, persist, flourish and grow when it is returned, and consequently is selfish to the extent that both parties must get something out of it, I think I now need to concentrate on trying to define just what that something is.  In addition, I need to know Why.


Probably one the greatest expositions on the nature of love (agape) was recorded by Paul the apostle:

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.  Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;  does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.  When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.  For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” 
(1Corinthians 13:1-13)

You may well home in on the description that “love does not seek its own”, which basically means it is not selfish.  But then again, does it?  The primary focus of love is its object, not self.  When God created the world and saw that it was all good except for Adam’s loneliness, He knew it would all go topsy-turvy as soon as He added Eve to the formula. Yet there she was, shortly after.  God loved Adam and catered for his need.  He also acted to achieve a much greater purpose: a bride for His Son. When God looks at His creation, billions of people going their own selfish way, He knows what is good for them. He knows that if they continue on their path of destruction they will end up in hell. His immediate purpose is to save them from that fate.  At the same time, He has another, eternal purpose, which really is the most important one: to prepare an eternal bride. 

So in the unfathomable richness and intricacy of dynamics divine, “all things work together for the good of those who love Him” (Romans 8:28). And in that complex framework, He employs us to spread His love, distribute His message, to enlarge His Kingdom, to enrich the lives of others, as well as our own in the process. So it is clear there is a dual focus to love.  One focuses outward, the other inward.  If God is all-knowing (Psalms 147:5), love itself (1 John 4:9), and the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8), He is bound to know something about the true nature of love that may well prove to be beyond our grasp. But that’s no reason to give up the quest. 

Love expressed should be totally focused on its object, whether that be our spouse, our children, our Saviour, or the souls around us.   However, God knowsthat if that love flows only in one direction, eventually its source will dry up and die. So He has built into His creation numerous examples of two-directional sustenance, just so that eventually we will see. The way rain kisses the earth and the earth gives back rain clouds.  The way plants absorb carbon from the air and then replenish the atmosphere with oxygen. The way bees feed on nectar and pollinate the flowers that produce it. The way termites return home to feed the queen and obtain a vital hormone that keeps them alive.  The way the holes they leave in dead-wood provide nests for other creatures, who, in turn, fertilise the ground so more trees can grow, in a cycle of interdependence.  There are literally millions of eco-cycles, where one species’ existence is totally dependent on another, illustrations of the giving and taking necessary to sustain life.  God knows love much better than we do. He is love. He has illustrated that love in multiple parables evident in nature, as well as in the feelings we experience for objects of our affection.  

However, there is no way that the full measure of God’s love can be illustrated in a parable. These are only hints to help us understand.    

Loving parents need to be loved by their children, but if the love is not returned, eventually it will die.  Children need to be loved by their parents, but the same rules apply. Spouses need to be loved by their partners, or the writing is on the wall.  Christians need to love one another, or a bride for Jesus cannot ever be. We all need to be loved by God, but if we don’t return His love, eventually His love will cease. Does God need our love?  It is a question way beyond my understanding to answer. God is perfect and without limit.  He doesn’t need us to become ‘complete’.  As far as I understand these matters, He doesn’t need anything. But for some almost incomprehensible reason, He has embarked upon this eternal divine project, where at the very least He wants our love and demands it as a prerequisite for sharing eternity with Him.

So I think the vital ingredient we are looking to identify in the nature of love is‘mutuality’. 

Love just doesn’t work unless it flows in two directions. There have been many sermons preached on ‘one-another-ing’. Paul’s letters are full of instructions in this regard. Jesus Himself commanded us to ‘love one another’. And He didn’t stop there; He commanded that such love display an intensity parallel to His own, making us willing to lay down our lives for each other.  Love will survive for some indeterminate time flowing in one direction. It seeks, explores, reaches out, probes and tests for a response. It is full of hope, full of encouragement, full of selfless giving. But love is what it is.  Eventually, if there is no response, no reaction, no love returned, no spiritual energy flowing, love will cease. 


So now we are looking to clarify the last quest: Why? Even if God’s love does not transcend eternally for some, and human love is a picture lesson to help us understand Him, I still struggle with the destruction of so many souls.  Why is unconditional love so elusive, maybe not even real?

Our human love is imperfect. So first I have to ask the question: was the love felt by Adam before the fall different from the love we feel today? What is the effect the fall has had on our capacity to experience love? In my essay on ‘Christian Love and Unity’, I expound the difference between agape and phileo love and discovered that phileo love is sourced in our human spirit, whereas agape love is sourced in the Holy Spirit.  Adam, following the fall, only had his own spirit to inspire love. Once we invite Jesus to become our Lord and Saviour, we receive the Holy Spirit to inspire us, but our human spirit keeps battling to stay in charge.  But that still doesn’t answer the question I need answered:  is phileo love an analogy of agape love, a lesson on understanding God, or is it imperfect as a result of sin, a lesson on what not to do?  

Adam, in his original sinless state, already had a human spirit and it was this spirit that opted to disobey God. After the fall, he and Eve became subject to the law of sin and death.  From that moment on, the effect of sin caused a slow genetic degeneration in human flesh. Adam lived hundreds of years, but his offspring less. (We now live 70 or 80 years on average, and even that is only thanks to breakthroughs in medical technology.)  In addition, Adam’s spirit was condemned to die.  But I can’t see any reason to conclude that either the human soul or the human spirit entered a path of gradual deterioration along with the flesh.  They are what they always were – we are still as self-focused as Adam and Eve, free to choose our own destiny, still as intent on improving our own lot.  However, the raised consciousness resulting from eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil has taken its toll. Cain was as likely to kill his brother as any degenerate Nazi. The residents of Sodom and Gomorrah were as depraved as some of our modern generation.  But with God no longer occupying His rightful place, we are even more vulnerable to temptation and evil forces.  I think we are as capable of experiencing phileo love as Adam and Eve before the fall would have been. They just lost the ability to experience agape love, or, even more likely, they never could. 

So answering my own question, “Why?” I think that our limited, imperfect, human love is there to teach us a lesson, a lesson we have not wanted to learn: God’s love is not unconditional. And neither is ours. 

It is a warning equivalent to: 


"Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." (Genesis 2:16-17)

  God’s love for the first created humans was already conditional. It is a warning that God’s love and patience is not everlasting for everyone. We all have a choice to make.  For God’s sake, let’s make the right one!

We are to love our spouse, our children, our brothers and sisters, both genetic as well as spiritual; we are to love our parents, our neighbors, our workmates, even our enemies. And we are to love them unconditionally for as long as we are physically alive and occupy some space on this earth.  In some weird sense, love is unconditional, but has an expiry date. When we face our Maker on that final day of judgment, this is what we will be judged on. 

Judgment is a complex issue, too involved to fully explore in this essay.  But I want to touch on it briefly, as it is so relevant to the subject matter. 


Having made the right choice to accept Jesus as our Saviour, we are now capable of demonstrating agape love, empowered by the Holy Spirit. Each day we decide to take up our cross and let Jesus live, we cannot help but demonstrate that love. Each day we set aside for ourselves inevitably results in the commission of sin. What God does with the sin we commit after having made the right choice, I believe hinges on our heart’s intent.  But let’s face it honestly, any sin has our full cooperation at the time it is committed.   

There is no doubt there will be a day of judgment.

“But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” (2 Peter 3:7)

The standards by which we judge will be applied to us.

"For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged”. (Matthew 7:2)

The judgment role for this world has been delegated by the Father to Jesus.

"For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son.” (John 5:22)

Jesus is the Word (John 1:1), and that Word is a sword to be used in judgment (Revelation 1:11-18).

“For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

So, the only explanation I can come up with, as to how billions of selfish people will end up in heaven without risk of another rebellion against Him, is that we will not enter heaven ‘in tact’.  I am convinced now, more than ever, that at the final judgment our souls will be separated from our spirits by that two-edged sword. And only our soul will enter eternity.  There will be no human spirit to make us feel dissatisfied, rebel and go our own selfish way. And both the love of God for us, as well as the love of His bride for Him, will well up from His Holy Spirit like a fountain of Living Water.  We will truly share only one spiritual Body and we will truly become One with Him.


The nature, endurance and capacity of God’s love are His business and prerogative. There is nothing we can do to change it, or Him, or His stand in the matter.  All we can do is accept that God’s love is what it is and that, consequently, the love we ourselves experience is there to help us understand Him.
I believe God looks for the flow of agape love flooding from our heart. Only the evidence of agape love in our lives will qualify us for eternity.  And agape can be ours only through Christ’s sacrifice. Everything else is just sounding brass or clanging cymbals.  God is never fooled and He knows our heart like the back of His hand.  We can have all the gifts and talents and do all the ‘right’ things, but if we have not love, it is all in vain.  On the other hand, we can make a multitude of mistakes, totally mess things up and be left with a quagmire of unsalvageable trouble, both in our lives and the people we were trying to help, and yet be pleasing to Him. God judges our heart. Human reason says: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions!” But that’s not a Bible verse.  God does judge us by our intentions.  And if the mess we made resulted from good intentions, I think God is satisfied.  

Love, by its very nature, is mutual.  It was the inevitable conclusion of Essays Series 1 to 4. This essay just goes further in understanding the core issues. I was given an inkling of this attribute more than twenty-five years ago, writing the words below in my novel, “Leaves of the Fig Tree”:

“The first symptom of real love is an inexplicable desire to be together.  Unrequited love cannot survive and often is only a recognition of what might be, were it returned.

By its very nature, love is mutual.  It thrives or shrivels according to the measure of its expression, the way in which it is received and the encouragement it is given. Love lives, and therefore must flow to exist.

Love sets no limits on itself. It gives according to the need of its object and gratefully receives all love given in return.  

Only God's love has stood the test of time and only it will last into eternity.”


I think today, twenty-five odd years later, I have edged just a little closer to understanding those words, even though they came from my own pen.  

How do we recognize whether we love someone?

1. They occupy our thoughts.  If we never think about them, we cannot possibly love them.
2. We have concern for their welfare and happiness.  Indifference, not hate, is the opposite of love.
3. We want to spend time in their presence.  It is not love if you never desire to call or visit them.
4. We long to express our love, communicating our feelings, demonstrating them in action.
5. We deeply desire to discover the object of our affection feels the same way about us.
6. We are genuinely keen to find out their thoughts and feelings about everything.
7. We long for unity in spirit with the one we love.


These things apply regardless of the type of relationship we have, be it husband/wife, parent/child, brother/sister or God/man. 

God’s love is eternal for those of us who love Him in return.  God is not blind to our behaviour here on this earth, but He tolerates almost any number of mistakes, as long as our actions were prompted by genuine, heartfelt love.  And He alone is the judge of that. Words by themselves mean nothing.  


Love, whether agape or phileo, is mutual. The sheer dynamics of the love of God make it eternal, but only for those who love Him in return.  He has revealed that truth throughout His creation, even in our own emotional connections and feelings for others, so we are without excuse.

“But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many.” (Romans 5:15)

Yes, salvation is a free gift. And this essay is my free gift to you. But if you won’t accept it, there is absolutely nothing I can do about it.  Neither will God force you to accept the free gift of eternal life.

(Let me just say here, that I personally would dearly like to be proven wrong here.  Please, if you can, send me scriptural evidence that I have missed something.  The concept of unconditional love is so appealing and appears to be so ‘right’.  My intellect tells me I’m correct in my interpretation, but my heart would like it to be otherwise.)

The concept of God’s unconditional love appears to be a new-age idea, paving the way for the introduction into the Church of what could well prove to be the next great apostasy – unbridled ‘religious tolerance’, leading to the watering down of the Gospel message to the point of negating the value of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Religious tolerance is an essential part of our Christian walk, allowing all peoples the right to believe what they will. (Freely, we need to come to repentance before Christ’s throne, to ask Him to take over our lives.) On the other hand, if that tolerance leads to all religions being regarded as having equal merit, possibly even inviting false gods into our midst, then we have overstepped the mark of decency and abandoned Jesus in a vain attempt to please everyone.

So meanwhile, let’s all concentrate on God’s eternal purpose (and make no bones about it: strictly one God, the God of the Bible, His name is Yahweh). And let’s learn how to surrender self and allow Christ to live.  Let’s seek Him earnestly, to learn how to share His love and bless others with it.  Let’s learn to become totally dependent on the Holy Spirit.  

Let’s get ready to be His bride for eternity.