Conditional Love

What must you do in order for God to love you? If you have read your Bible, then you already know that there is nothing you need to do, for God loves you unconditionally. The pages of Scripture are filled with messages and examples that demonstrate the unconditional nature of God's love for all men. Of course, the greatest proof of God's love for man is seen in the cross of Christ, "for God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16). The sacrifice of Christ was not predicated by any condition on the part of man, for Christ died for us while we were still sinners. Notice Romans 5:6-8:

6For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

While God's love for man is completely unconditional, man's love for God is strictly conditional. These conditions are not matters of what God must do to attract our love, for He has already merited our love toward Him by the exercise of His love toward us. Notice 1John 4:10 -- "In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins." Instead, the conditions of our love for God are matters of what we must do to express and demonstrate our love to Him.

Perhaps the foremost condition of our love for God was given by Jesus in John 14:15 -- "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." The connection between love and commandment keeping is often lost in modern notions of Christianity, but it is plainly taught in Scripture. From the beginning of time, the Bible shows that man's love for God has always been proved by the keeping of God's commandments. Men like Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses expressed their love for God when they did as God commanded them. The Law of Moses repeatedly told Israel to love God by keeping His commandments (see Ex. 20:6; Deut. 5:10; 7:9; 10:12; 11:1, 13, 22; 19:9; 30:16). In fact, Jesus summarized all of the Law and the Prophets when He declared the greatest commandments in Matthew 22:37-40:

37And He said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.'38This is the great and foremost commandment. 39The second is like it, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets."

Although Christians are not bound by the Law of Moses today, the connection between loving God and keeping His commandments still stands and is a foundational principle of the gospel of Christ. Consider 1John 5:2-3:

2By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. 3For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.

In the two passages just quoted, we see the necessity of loving others as a condition of our love for God. In fact, brotherly love itself is a commandment (John 13:34) that we must keep in order to love God. Truly, we cannot love God unless we love His children, our fellow Christians, as the following passage from 1John 4 explains:

11Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us...19We love, because He first loved us. 20If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.

Such brotherly love is more than simple affection, for it must be expressed in actions that demonstrate good will in the likeness of Christ Himself. Notice 1John 3:16-18:

16We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17But whoever has the world's goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.

Are you meeting the conditions for the love of God in your life? Truly, there is nothing that can separate you from God's love (Rom. 8:35-39), but is there something that has separated God from your love? If you have not made God the greatest love of your life by keeping His commandments and loving His children, then begin loving God in truth by meeting these conditions. Certainly, He deserves nothing less.

Stacey E. Durham


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