Last week, I wrote about “unconditional love.” I claimed that it was a myth. In truth, love as such cannot occur absent conditions. All emotions are a response to preconceived values, and values are by nature conditional. We love what we love because it is what it is.
Reaction to the piece was mixed, as reflected in the comments section. Some followed the argument. Others disagreed. Of particular interest to me, since I am a Bible-believing Christian, was this response from “Harald”:
Christ loves me unconditionally. He died for all of us, no exceptions.
Is that a myth too?
Yes, Harald. Yes, it is.
The idea that Jesus Christ loves everyone unconditionally remains popular among believers and non-believers alike. Yet it has no biblical basis and actually runs counter to the truth of the Gospel.
Other commenters provided additional context for Harald’s point, reminding readers that the English language has one word for “love” to reference several different meanings. “DaveK Or” states:
Trying to discuss unconditional love without setting its definition is probably pointless.
Fair enough. Of course, in the context of this discussion, the definition has been set. The popular usage of “unconditional love” refers to universal acceptance of anything a person does, says, or believes. Anytime someone misapplies the verse “judge not lest ye be judged,” they appeal to this notion of “unconditional love.” The religious left thrives on the theme, which has underscored certain denominations’ embrace of the homosexual lifestyle despite clear biblical prescriptions.
Let’s look at Harald’s comment again. “[Christ] died for all of us, no exceptions.” I believe that. The Bible teaches that. However, Christ’s act was not an expression of unconditional love. We must consider why Christ died for us.
If Christ’s love were as unconditional as many portray, then his death would not have been necessary. It would not matter whether we believed in Him. It would not matter whether we obeyed Him. Of course, the Bible teaches otherwise. The biblical narrative outlines in great detail the conditions which required Christ to offer his life on the cross.
Christ died as an atonement, to absorb God’s wrath in our place. He died to satisfy justice. Even then, to benefit from his glorious act, we must conscientiously believe in Him and repent of our sin. These are clearly articulated conditions. One cannot benefit from God’s love unconditionally.
Certainly, through the work of Christ, God has offered salvation to everyone without exception. All may partake of Christ’s saving power. This might be described as “unconditional love” in the loosest sense of the term. However, the fact remains that the miracle of salvation is only possible because Christ met a condition which made it possible. In that most literal sense, there remains no such thing as “unconditional love.”
This point matters. If we get it wrong, we get the Gospel wrong. If we fail to acknowledge the gravity of sin and the necessity of Christ’s payment for it, then we remove the essential context in which his news proves good.
The Bible teaches that the overwhelming majority of created souls will pour through a wide gate into the fires of hell. By contrast:
For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. – Matthew 7:14
In that context, it seems irresponsible to throw around a term like “unconditional love.”