About Unconditional Love
There seems to be a real misunderstanding among Christians about the relationship between forgiveness and repentance because they are often confused about what Gods unconditional love really is. This is not just a theologicaI issue since most of us are daily faced with repenting of our sins and forgiving others who have sinned against us, as Jesus said in the Lords Prayer. On the one hand, can we expect God and others to forgive us when we have not turned from our sin? On the other hand, can we forgive someone who wont admit the wrong hes done to us?
I believe this confusion is rooted in a failure to understand the true nature of Gods love. First, people seem to think that unconditional means absolute tolerance for any kind of behavior no matter how mean or evil it is and no matter what the consequences to others. In my mind this is mere indulgence, not love. For how is it love to let a person go on destroying himself and others when setting a limit might turn him around? It is true that God loves us without conditions, but that does not mean that He tolerates sinful behavior.
Gods unconditional love means that He never stops desiring us to stop our sinful behavior and never stops acting to motivate us to stop. His love does not tolerate anything less than the best for us; no matter how far we wander from God, His love is always there for us, drawing us to Himself if we will only be honest with Him about what we have done. In this sense Gods love is unconditional. God does not give up on us.
Unconditional love does not mean, however, that God accepts our behavior no matter what we do. Gods love is unconditional, but it is neither tolerant nor indulgent. Gods love is a consuming fire that burns and destroys anything that will keep us from being pure vessels for Him to dwell in. Accepting us as we are does not translate into accepting our behavior as it is. God accepts us where we are in order to change where we are, or rather to change which spirit operates us and lives our lives.
For this reason God cannot forgive without the person sincerely repenting of his sins. It is not that God does not desire to forgive: He wants to with His whole being. His whole drive is to restore sinning people to Himself and to deliver them from Satans misuse of them. But He cannot as long as a person fails to come clean. If God forgave without requiring repentance, it would not be lovefor the person would remain in Satans grasp.
God does not just wish to deliver us from guilt, a consequence of indwelling sin, but from the indwelling sinproducer himself. Only repentancea total rejection of the sincan break Satans hold over the person (see 2 Tim. 2:25, 26).
Therefore, Gods love demands repentance. It is not a burdensome requirement, for divine love can settle for nothing less than a total restoration of the person to God. To desire anything less is satanic. God is not willing that any should perish, but for everyone to come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9). So if a person does not repent of his sin when confronted, he cannot be forgiven by God or by other Christiansnot out of meanness or revenge, but out of Gods love.
So the idea that we must tolerate sinful behavior in people no matter what the effect on self or others, is certainly not love. In fact, such tolerance is the supreme form of hatred, since it complacently allows the person to remain being operated by Satan and to continue getting the horrible consequences of such a choice. It is not love; it is granting our approval to such wickedness (Rom. 1:32).
We must not encourage someone to presume on the goodness of God as if anything he does will be automatically forgiven without the internal change of mind that is called repentance. It is not that we do not want to forgive, but that forgiveness would produce the opposite effect of what we desire, the restoration of the whole person. It would only confirm to the person that his behavior is really not all that bad, and as a result he would continue in it and continue to be operated by Satan.
Gods fiery passion within us, His love, compels us to take a hard line on sin because Gods desire is for every sinner to be fully restored to Himself. Restoration cannot happen without repentance.
More Articles from The Intercessor, Vol 18 No 3
- The Best of Boone Celebrating 10 Years of Truth!
- A Tribute to Norman Grubb In His Own Words
- The Missing Truth
- 1993 Annual Business Meeting
- Zerubbabel Focus: Total Living Center
- A Look at a Book
- Body, Soul, and Spirit
- Tape Talk
- The Story of the Ten
- A Letter
- About Unconditional Love
- Thoughts on Abraham
- Christianitys Lost Chord The Definition of Ourselves as Both Disciples and Apostles
- Message from Norman
- Powerless over Alcohol and Life: Step 10
- Questions And Answers!