Often I hear ministers speak of God's unconditional love. The term "unconditional love" has a beautiful sound to it and it is a concept most people can appreciate.
But is God's love, all of God's love, really unconditional?
There is an aspect of God's love that is unconditional, and there is an aspect of God's love that is conditional. It is not all unconditional.
The Bible defines God's predominate character trait as love. John expresses it simply: "He who does not love does not know God, for God is love" (1 John 4:8). "And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him" (1 John 4:16).
There are certainly aspects of God's love that are unconditional. God loves mankind because it is His nature to love, not because man has fulfilled any conditions. Many passages speak of that unconditional love. Though the term "unconditional love" is not in the Bible, you can tell from the context that there are no conditions involved.
God desires all men to repent and be saved. "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).
" 'For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,' says the Lord God. 'Therefore turn and live!' " (Ezekiel 18:32). "Say to them: 'As I live,' says the Lord God, 'I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?' " (Ezekiel 33:11).
"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).
"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).
Yet, there is an aspect of God's love that is conditional, according to the Bible.
God has a special love for those who obey Him and do those things that are pleasing to Him. And that special love is conditional - conditional on our obedience.
Notice what Jesus Christ said shortly before He suffered and died.
"He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he 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).
"Jesus answered and said to him, 'If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me' " (John 14:23-24).
"As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love" (John 15:9-10).
Notice, IF (a condition) we love Christ and keep His commandments, THEN the Father will love us and we will abide in Christ's love.
The implication is, if we do not obey Christ we will not have that special love from Christ and the Father.
Loving obedience is the condition.
God's unconditional love for all people sometimes means He must put unrepentant sinners out of their misery in the lake of fire. That is better for them than making themselves and others miserable for eternity by their sins. And His unconditional love means He provides an opportunity for all men to avoid that fate and come to repentance and be saved. God also has made a plan to encourage everyone to repent, each in his own order.
But God's conditional love, love conditioned on our faithful and humble obedience, is expressed by His giving us eternal life in His kingdom in joy and happiness forever.
Let us appreciate the unconditional aspect of God's love, but also appreciate the love He has for those who obey Him, and let's make sure we fulfill the condition of obedience so that we abide in all of God's love and receive eternal life in God's kingdom and enjoy the happiness of that kingdom forever.