If God’s Love is unconditional, then why is there a condition for salvation?


(Diorella Yu de Leon ) #1


So the title of this topic is actually a question a Friend of mine is currently wrestling with. It is the main question that stops her from coming to
Christ. I don’t really know how to respond to this question and was wondering if anyone could share some thoughts?

Here’s the background of my friend, just to give a bit of a context as to who the questioner is that we are responding to:
She grew up in a catholic school, so used to go to church. So she has some knowledge about Christianity. When she went to university, her roommates were atheists and their beliefs/ questions that they raised influenced her.

She then became curious about other religions and she says she has read about Buddhism.

When I asked her where she is right now in terms of what she believes, she says this:
“I believe that there is a supreme being but I just don’t know what form he comes in. Whether it’s Buddha or allah. I haven’t decided that yet.”

(SeanO) #2

@dyordyor Great question. May the Lord open the eyes and heart of your friend to see the glory of God in Christ Jesus!

The short answer to the question is that God’s love is unconditional in the sense that anyone who is willing the humble themselves, repent and place their trust in Christ can enter into God’s family / kingdom. God has mercy on all who come - from great to small, pharisee to licentious sinner…

However, because God is real - not just a figment of our imagination - and He is holy - we cannot enter into relationship with Him while we are living in rebellion / sin / unholiness. That is why Jesus came - to make a way back into God’s Presence. In that sense, there is a condition for coming to God - we must come in the way He has ordained so that we can be holy as He is holy.

In terms of actually answering your friend - have you guys ever sat down and read through the book of John together? There are a couple of reasons I think this would be a great idea as a way to answer her questions.

  1. John emphasizes that Jesus came in “grace” and “truth” - your friend does not seem to understand that grace apart from truth is meaningless

  2. Stories where Jesus shows tremendous mercy and then tells the person ‘Go and sin no more’. These stories give you a great opportunity to discuss the issue of holiness and love.

John 5:1-15 / John 8:3-11

  1. It gives her a chance to fall in love with Jesus and you an opportunity to discuss what makes Jesus unique when compared to other religious leaders

May the Lord give you wisdom by His Spirit as you converse with your friend :slight_smile:

(Jimmy Sellers) #3

I am going to assume the question of love and salvation are you friend’s dilemma and not whether Allah or Buddha is god. If that is the case here is a thought.
The model that best explains the unconditional love verse a conditional respond for me is that of being a parent. As a parent I love my children always regardless of how they respond to my love. My will for them is good but I can’t will them to do good without violating their will. I can only love them enough to allow them to fail. I will all way be there but I can’t force the right choice.
It sounds like your friend has some familiarity with the Bible ask to read Luke 15:11-32, the prodigal son. I think that it is a perfect answer to her question. Hope this helps.

(Carson Weitnauer) #4

Hi @dyordyor,

Thank you for sharing this question! Very interesting to consider.

It seems to me that God’s love is unconditional - whatever condition you are in, God will love and accept you. The only condition is on our part: will we respond to this great and good love - or reject it?

I would ask: do you really believe that God is real and that God’s love is unconditional? Do you have a conviction that God’s love is perfect, good, constant, and available to you? If your friend says yes, definitely, then you can ask, “So why not receive his love for yourself?” If your friend says, I don’t know if God is real or God is loving, then you could ask, “Why not see for yourself? Let’s read the Bible together. The Bible tells us who God is and what God is like.”

(Jennifer Judson) #5

The good news is that your friend is seeking truth. We all pray she will find the truth.

This was an illustration someone once shared with me. Maybe it might be useful here.

Say a man has 8 children. He loves them, cares for them, generously helps all of them try to find their unique path in life. One of his children completely rejects his love and all that he stands for, moves away and never communicates with the father again. Another child doesn’t outright reject the father, but neglects him. He takes the fathers calls, occasionally borrows money for selfish concerns, but he never puts any effort into the relationship. In other words, he uses the father but never shows any care or concern for him. All his other children return his love, choose to have a full relationship with him, and care for him in his old age.

The man is making his will. He still loves all of his children with the same passion as the day of their birth when they were placed in his arms. Yet he knows that the two never responded in kind to that love. He reached out time and time again offering for them to come back into the fold with full forgiveness, but still nothing but rejection or apathy. He does not force or coerce them–he respects their choice even though it breaks his heart.

How does he prepare his will? How does he divide his wealth? What is fair and just? If he includes them as beneficiaries of the inheritance is he rejecting their free will to live without him and his resources?

These questions can lead into a discussion on The Prodigal Son and our opportunity to respond, no matter how far from His love we have ventured.

Thank you for caring so deeply about your friends eternal welfare.

(Melvin Greene) #6

These are all good answers. The only thing I can add is that God shows his love for us by making a way for us to be saved. This way cost him dearly, but he loves us so much that he was willing to pay that price. He offers this way of salvation to everyone. We don’t have to earn it. We just have to accept it. Any other way is counterfeit and did not come from God. Yes, there is just one way for salvation, but we rejoice that there IS a way.

(Helen Tan) #7

Hi @dyordyor, there are great responses so far to your question. I would just like to backtrack a little bit to find out what prompted that question. Romans 10:9 says: For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. It is reiterated so we don’t miss it in verse 13: for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

What God asks of us is consent and for consent to be real, we need to believe what we are consenting to and accept it by confessing it. There are no conditions, which leads me to wonder how she actually views salvation. What does she mean by ‘condition’ and how did she come to believe that?

(Brian Weeks) #8

What a great and keen question your friend has asked you, Diorella. And what a wonderful opportunity to tell her about the lavish love of God. I think I might begin by asking your friend, When you think of the word “unconditional”, what comes to mind? And, with regard to salvation, what condition do you have in mind?

I’ll have to assume some things here and one of them is that, by “condition for salvation”, she’s referring to whatever it is that divides those who are saved from those who are not saved - namely, faith.

Regarding the word “unconditional”, my hope would be to show her that God’s love is far better than unconditional. Rather, I like what David Powlison in his short but illumining book titled God’s Love: Better Than Unconditional calls it: contraconditional.

I agree with Carson in that, in one sense, God’s love is unconditional insofar as he welcomes, or receives, us just as we are: sinful, suffering, lost.

Yet, in another sense, I think that God’s saving love - his unmerited mercy and grace - is conditional; indeed, highly conditional. It demands such a great condition that it’s impossible for me to meet. A condition so great that it took the death of the Son of God to accomplish it. And, without such a condition, the cross would have been superfluous. But, that condition is what makes the cross so glorious. Christ fulfilled that condition for us in his death on the cross.

But, I tend to agree with Powlison that it gets better than this. The reason why I’d be interested to hear what comes to your friend’s mind when she thinks of unconditional love is because I think the phrase “unconditional love” often carries with it cultural baggage that is not true of God’s love. It’s sometimes thought of as “You’re OK just as you are. I love you just as you are and I don’t judge you nor seek to change you nor expect anything from you.” And I receive unconditional love as if I deserve it.

But, God’s love isn’t like this. It’s far better! His love, in this sense, isn’t unconditional, it’s contraconditional. God doesn’t give me what I deserve. He gives me the opposite! God loves me in spite of me. He loves me just as Jesus is. And his love for me seeks to change me all day, every day. His love for me seeks to enthrall me with the all-satisfying beauty of his Son. God’s love, I think, is better than unconditional.

(Diorella Yu de Leon ) #9

Thank you so much for all the insights! There is a lot to think about but so helpful!

(Helen Tan) #10

Having read the input into this discussion, I can’t help but think that it’s difficult and even inaccurate to try to distil the richness and depth of God’s love into a single adjective. Perhaps ‘unconditional’ provides a snapshot of the inclusiveness of His love as a conversation starter with a non-believer, but as @Brian_Weeks pointed out, it opens up to differing interpretations of what that entails. As finite beings, there is no way that we can fully comprehend the fullness of God’s boundless love on this side of heaven. We’ll be spending eternity getting there.

What is emerging for me is that in our conversations, we do have to take the time to explore the meaning of what it means to be loved by God with our questioners.

One key aspect is that we can’t truly explain His love without bringing in His holiness into our conversations. His love for us desires that all of us have the closest relationship with Him, to know Him as Abba Father. Yet, His holiness cannot accommodate our sin. We are utterly disqualified standing before a holy God. In the Cross, we see God’s love as being sacrificial and forgiving, elevating us into the unfathomable position of being placed in the family of God if we would accept His gift. Yet, it does not end there. His love is healing and empowering, enabling us to understand what it is to be His children, His image bearers, and how to act as such. Our ability to love is a function of how much we receive and know His love. At the same time, His love is perfect and unchanging and we have full assurance that He will never leave us nor forsake us.

Much more is required to even start explaining God’s love. Unconditional, counter-conditional, sacrificial, healing, forgiving, empowering, perfect and unchanging are just a few adjectives. God’s love is multi-dimensional and transforms us as each aspect comes to light in our lives. I know there’s much more to learn on this subject and I look forward to hearing more from others.

(Ron Livaudais) #11

God’s Love, which is unconditional and the condition for salvation are two different things. God will continue to love those He created even though they reject His love. The free will we use to accept God’s gift of salvation or reject it is a free gift, which is given to us unconditionally, but the real question is:
How will we use the gifts God has given us(Faith and free will for example)? Will we use those gifts to accept or reject Jesus, especially after the Love He showed us in paying the penalty for our sins?

(Joseph Kamau Njoroge) #12

When we say Gods love is unconditional it simply means there is nothing we can or cannot do,for Him to not love us,Including rejecting His salvation. Simply God’s love is uninfluenced by our input or being.
The condition to being saved is to believe in Christ.Rom 9:10 …If God had made this elusive then we would question His love ,but its freely available and easily attainable.
If she believes in a supreme being.Why the Christian God?
I would refer her back to the question and say,God is love (1 John 4:8).
So, what does it mean that God is love? Love is an attribute of God. Love is a core aspect of God’s character, His Person.Everything God does is loving (including placing a condition to being saved), just as everything He does is just and right. God is the perfect example of true love.

(Lorna D’souza Philip) #13

to receive that unconditional love one has to experience the person of Jesus. It’s only in a personal relationship that love is experienced.