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The Love of God:
Conditional versus Unconditional

.by Matt Moody, Ph.D..

Intro. In the 60's the hippie movement perpetuated a particular philosophy about "love." Along with an attitude of "free love" (read: free sexual expression), the idea of "unconditional love" was also championed in the sixties — hippies were big on accepting and "loving" others no matter what their attitudes or actions.

On one hand, this kind of unconditional acceptance can be a good thing, but in the case of the 60's hippie movement, this particular version of "unconditional love" was a convenient philosophy that provided a self-serving justification. How so?

Because their "free love" (free sex) practices violated the standard virtue and chastity in the Bible, as the hippies advocated "unconditional love," they created a justifying excuse that emphasized the goodness of their hearts -- to compensate for their sexual immorality. In other words, these 60's-free-lovers justified their contrary morality of "free sex," in the name of love! They justified their immorality through the supposed morality of "unconditional love."

To make their self-justification even more convincing, "free lovers" maintained that God's Love IS this same kind of "unconditional love" — acceptance of others, no matter what they think or do.

This kind of "unconditional love" that people popularly assign to God, was introduced prior to the 60's by humanist-philosopher Carl Rogers. His teaching of "Unconditional Positive Regard" was the intellectual basis for free lovers to advocate "Unconditional Love."

Rogers (1902-1987) first presented his humanist/atheist ideas through books he wrote about "Counseling and Psychotherapy" in the 1940's and 50's. His ideas undoubtedly helped initiate and reinforce the "free love" thinking of the 60's.

So, it was an atheist who introduced the notion of "Unconditional Positive Regard," thus, it is greatly incongruent to assign Carl Roger's notion of Love ... to God's kind of Love. Roger's Unconditional Love philosophy is based upon atheist assumption of moral relativism.

In contrast, God's way of love is consistent and not relativistic. Again, Unconditional Positive Regard means that no matter what a client says or does, the therapist will give back positive acceptance to that client.

Now, let me explain Why it is a mistake to imagine that Carl Roger's counseling technique of Unconditional Positive Regard is parallel to the way God's Love is manifest: No matter what you do . . . God will give back Positive Regard—Unconditional Love. But this is NOT really the way God manifests Love to His children.

Principles for Defining God's Love

Divine Love is Active and Not Passive. Imagine a brother or sister who NEVER calls, NEVER visits . . . but just thinks "warm and fuzzy thoughts" about you—what kind of love is that?


Divine Love is Expressed in Word and Deed. Also, consider the person who says "I Love you," . . . yet, demonstrates no expressive action that supports and reinforces the verbal expression. This is precisely why the Bible gives this truth:

My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue;
but in deed and in truth (1 John 3: 18).

Divine Love is Manifest by a Whole Way of Being. In addition to expressing Divine Love through words and deeds to others, Divine Love is express by one's whole Being. And as we understand the nature of "being" correctly, it is then that we more fully understand the meaning of the phrase: God IS Love. Love IS the manifestation of God's Being.

God's Kind of Love -- Divine Love -- is necessarily more than a warm and fuzzy attitude held in the Heart: Divine Love is always directly expressed by the LOVER and felt by the LOVED -- and without this active and whole manifestation, Love ceases to be Divine Love. This means LOVE always has IMPACT or INFLUENCE — always!

Divine Love is Manifest According to Conditions. The children of God are the ones who choose the conditions within which God manifests two fundamental forms of Love:

LOVE AS BLESSING: In Response to Obedience -- For those who choose to obey God, Divine Love is expressed by drawing near (James 4: 8); and ONLY when God's Spirit draws near, can a person:

        Be made clean by the blood of Christ,
        Be redeemed and made a "new creature" (2 Cor. 5: 17), and
        Experience a fullness of "love," "joy," and "peace" (Galatians 5: 22).

To Receive the blessings of Christ's Redemption, IS to receive the fullness of God's Divine Love.

LOVE AS CHASTENING: In Response to Rebellion -- On the other hand, for those who disobey Him, God's expression of love looks different and feels different: It comes in the form of "chastening" (Job 5: 17; Proverbs 3: 11; Hebrews 12: 5) to include:

        A direct and clear condemnation of certain unacceptable behavior, and
        A withdrawal of God's Spirit Presence.

These "chastening" expressions of God's Love are taught in the Bible:

        "Whom the Lord loveth, He chasteneth" (Hebrews 12: 6), and
        "My Spirit will not always strive with man" (Genesis 6: 3).

The reality that God indeed withdraws His Spirit in consequence of our rebellious choices, is established in the Bible by the inverse implication of James 4: 8 -- God draws nigh to us as we draw nigh to Him. So the inverse implication is this: As we draw away from God, He draws His Spirit away from us, according to His promise in Genesis 6: 3 -- "My Spirit will not always strive with man."

The Bible explicitly describe this Divine withdrawal:

"Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof ... Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me: For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord: They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof. Thus shall they eat the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices." (Proverbs 1: 24-31)

Now, the withdrawal of God's Spirit doesn't seem very loving on the surface, but once we understand the REASON WHY God withdraws, we see that His withdrawal is, in the first place, to influence us to choose His salvation for the benefit of our eternal souls, that we might be blessed by His Mercy and redeemed by His Grace; and in the last place, for those who stubbornly persist in their rebellion, they will receive the fruit of their choices, and will be "cut off" according to God's perfect Justice.

Jesus taught about this condition of being "cut off" or "damned." Those who stubbornly choose to resist and rebel against the ways of God will "reap" the reward of which the Savior spoke: "outer darkness" (Matt 25: 30) — a consequence reserved for "unprofitable servants." This means that those who refuse to walk in the ways of God will eventually be cut off from His Love and His Light. That's precisely what outer darkness is — separation or damnation from the Light and Love of God.

Both the direct condemnation and the withdrawal of His Spirit happen initially for the sinners' sake, that they might see the correlation between WHAT THEY DID . . . and THE CONSEQUENCES that they have harvested.

God's Love works within the "Law of Harvest"
and therefore within Conditions

This law of the harvest correlation is sent consistently to each individual sinner that he/she might repent and come unto Christ. Thus, the Love of God has a clear context:

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son,
that whosoever believeth in him should not perish,
but have everlasting life"
(John 3: 16).

The possibility of that many may "perish" is real! Perishing—or NOT having "everlasting life"— is a very undesirable condition. It is a torment-filled consequence that will eventually be "reaped" by those who refuse to believe in the Son and walk in His steps (1 Peter 2: 21).

Belief in the Son is manifest—in the same way love is manifest—by active expressions of both word and deed, as opposed to just warm and fuzzy feelings in our hearts. Jesus taught that true believers will do what He did (John 14: 12)—else they are NOT really true believers.

The Law of the Harvest is one of the ways God manifests His Love. He loves His children so much, that He wants all of His children to partake of eternal life. The "strait and narrow" (Matt. 7: 14) path that lead to eternal life can ONLY be recognized as sinners and believers consistently experience condemning consequences whenever they fail to hear and heed God's Truth.

Mormon Apostle, Russell M. Nelson, in an Ensign Magazine article entitled "Divine Love," asserts this about God's Love: "While divine love can be called perfect, infinite, enduring, and universal, it cannot correctly be characterized as unconditional."

God's Conditional Love creates Correlations
that Teach us The Right Way

Because God Loves us, he has established this clear correlation:

Following the ways of God brings peace
Rebelling against the ways of God brings sorrow, despair, hopelessness, etc.

This is according to the law of the Harvest: "for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" (Galatians 6: 7-8).

Hence, God's Love is manifest according to the "conditions" of our chosen behavior. God's Love is NOT manifest in one way only—as is Carl Rogers' Unconditional Positive Regard.

What kind of message is sent, when we do something morally wrong, . . . terribly wrong, and the consequence we receive is a "warm and fuzzy" feeling—no matter what we do. Such a unconditional system of consequences sends the wrong message, a confusing message.

It says, regardless of what you do . . . God will give His loving presence to you, anyway.

Truth is . . . God does send His Love consistently and continuously for many years of mortal life, even decades, as we choose to sin. BUT His "loving message" to the sinner is one of chastening: God must sent the message that certain behaviors are unacceptable. For if He failed to do this, He would cease to be a perfectly Just God. Further, God would be an accomplice to each individual's sinful ways, as He turns His head and simply tolerates or ignores the sinful behavior.

But Heavenly Father is a God of perfect Justice; therefore, He answers each and every one of our sins with the appropriate feedback of chastisement—this is why we feel guilty when we do what is wrong.

That God chastens the sinner AND draws near to the saint, and also prospers those who obey Him (Duet. 29: 9)—is a System of Love completely contrary to Carl Rogers' "Unconditional Positive Regard" — completely opposite.

Unconditional Positive Regard is NOT in harmony with Bible Principles, nor is it verified by the pragmatic consequences of daily living. Generally speaking, here's how life works:

       When you do Good . . . you feel good, and
       When you do Bad . . . you feel bad.

That is precisely the way God has set it up . . . for our sake, that we might learn to choose the way of goodness and happiness—the way of God.

Attempts to Mute God's Message
of Conditional Consequences

One HUGE reason why people are enticed to take drugs . . . is so they will be oblivious to the consequences that consistently come with immoral behavior—chosen actions that go against the word and will of God.

For example, back in the 60's as hippies indulged in their expressions of "free love" with numerous non-committed partners, they absolutely NEEDED to take LSD (and some other drug), so they would be NUMB to the emotional and spiritual consequences that would inevitably come!

Carl Rogers is a humanist/atheist; thus, he has NO basis for determining which behaviors are morally right or morally wrong. According to the humanistic premise, there is NO right or wrong because there is NO God, and hence, no laws given by God as moral guides.

Why is this pertinent? Within Carl Rogers' "love system" of Unconditional Positive Regard there are NO sinners or saints, hence NO basis upon which to righteously judge (John 7: 24) a "client" as behaving morally right or wrong.

"Judge Not" — Christ's Misunderstood Teaching

BUT didn't Jesus teach us NOT to judge? Yes and No! Jesus taught that we should "judge righteous judgment." That whatever form of judgment we render to others, will be the form of judgment that is given back to us.

The reality of mortal life is this: You and I cannot avoid making judgments in every waking moment. We cannot NOT judge in every moment of perception!

The process of perceiving . . . IS a process of making judgments. Every perception involves making a judgment: For example, driving a car across town involves making many judgments: judging the position and speed of other cars, and judging the color and timing of traffic lights.

Because every perception involves making judgments, this is why Jesus taught that we should "judge righteous judgment" (John 7: 24). The Savior said:

"Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment."

A righteous judgment is one that strives to see beyond "appearance." One way to make judgments beyond superficial "appearance" occurs by "asking questions" to get more information — so we can get beyond the way things seem on the surface (see 1 Samuel 16: 7).

Thus, the gospel goal is best expressed to make judgments that are fair and pleasing to God — according to God's way of righteous judgment: discerning the heart, or intent, behind every act.

Now because Jesus literally said "Judge Not" . . . some take these words out of context and use this statement to unwittingly support a stance of "moral relativism." In this way, Satan is able to sell the idea of Unconditional Positive Regard as being God's way. After all . . . Jesus said "judge not."

As Human Beings, because we cannot NOT judge/perceive in every waking moment, thus, we need to make sure every judgment/perception is one that God approves of, and supports, and/or even inspires. Again, Christ's admonition is this issue is . . . "judge righteous judgment."

The Unconditional Positive Regard system of love is embedded in the assumption of NO LAW and NO GOD. It is based upon the dangerous philosophy of "moral relativism" — a false philosophy that ran rampant in the so-called "free love" era of the 60's.

God's Love = Impacting Others to their Eternal Advantage

In contrast, a permissive live-and-let-live kind of love, God's Love is manifest via Influence always. And that persuasive "impact" is ever aimed at what God wants for His children. This means His Love is not neutral: God does not have a permissive live-and-let-live approach to His children.

So even though Heavenly Father allows His children to choose the way they will go, He constantly persuades the Eternal Destiny that He wishes for His children—the Eternal Reward He has prepared for those who Love Him and Obey Him. Thus, God's Love is constantly manifest via influence and impact always.

A warm and fuzzy attitude in your heart cannot qualify as "love." Just as "faith without works is dead" (James 2: 17-26), so also is LOVE dead unless it is manifest in a way that is BOTH expressed and received—a LOVE that INFLUENCES/IMPACTS the person that is LOVED.

Throughout mortal life, our loving Heavenly Father will constantly strive to influence us towards His Highest Prize: Eternal Life in His Presence. And if we do not receive His loving influence that persuades us toward His Highest Prize, then, we will be cut off from the fullness of His Love for eternity. God's Love is manifest within a system of conditions.

*   *   *   *   *

When you are truly being Loving, . . . your very Being IS Love. And "Being Love" is the highest attainment of existence—for God IS Love. Human Being has its richest fulfillment within the relational Bonds of Love that Stand! Read more about the Love that Stands vs the Love that Falls.

* * * * *
"We are each of us angels with one wing,
and can only fly embracing each other."

.* * * * *

The committed decision to nurture the spiritual growth of another requires that you are "in tune" with your own spiritual growth. The "love that stands" is inseparably expressed through your ability to Be True to God's Truth in any particular moment. Read more about Being True.

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