What does unconditional love look like to you? When some think of unconditional love, they think of a puppy, greeting his master at the door when he returns from work. Or a new mother holding her baby.
When I think of that puppy, I think how excited it gets, wiggly all over, tail wagging, tongue hanging, mouth open, literally laughing with joy in his master’s presence. The dog listens patiently, and will sit interminably and attentively while he is regaled with tales of his master’s adventures, or while deepest hurts are confided. He will nuzzle his master to encourage him and will rest his head in his lap, patiently waiting for his master to finish. Then he will give his master a kiss and wait until his master is ready to rise and move about the day. He will go everywhere with his master that he is allowed, and will never leave his side unless it is to chase off an invader to his territory.
I have a friend who is a cat person. She has a cat who greets her when she comes through the door after 3 or 4 days of being away ministering. But the greeting is nothing like she would receive from a dog. Her cat stands back and scolds her, sometimes for hours, sometimes, if the absence has been a long one, for a day or more.
Now I have no doubt that the cat loves her. But the greeting isn’t one that I would associate with unconditional love. It’s more like that of royalty scolding the subject for being absent from her post. I appreciate this example and the contrast between the dog and the cat, because I think it is a marvelous analogy of how we treat our Savior, and how He treats us.
When I think of unconditional love, I immediately think of God. And not because people have told me that He loves me unconditionally, though they say it all the time, but because I have experienced that unconditional love first hand. When I return after straying away from my daily regimen of quiet time with Him, He greets me with open arms, hugs, laughter, joy, smiles, and caresses. He waits patiently while I pour out my heart, and gently nuzzles me with verses of Scripture to encourage me to continue. He stays with me, patiently waiting for me, constantly encouraging me with glimpses of His love. When I rise to go about my day, He goes with me. He never leaves my side, and He will participate in my entire day, if I will let Him.
You see, God loves us unconditionally. UNCONDITIONALLY. Webster’s defines unconditionally as: Without condition, absolutely. That means, God loves us when we stink; when we are dirty; when we mess up; when we share; when we are selfish; when we take; when we love; when we hate. God loves us. Period. End of sentence. End of discussion.
I believe that one of the problems with winning the ‘churched’ lost to Christ is that we haven’t told them the entire story. They see the God of the Old Testament and assume that the anger and wrath are all that there is to God. Satan has sold them the lie and blinded them to the truth. And to reach them, we have to quit talking and start showing them who God is.
There is no question that there is wrath and anger in the Old Testament. There’s even a little bit in the New Testament when we think of Christ turning over the tables of the moneychangers. But in every case, God’s anger and wrath are directed at SIN.
When I see the God of the Old Testament (who, by the way, is the same one in the New Testament), I see an amazing picture of unconditional love. For God so loved the world…..
God is a multifaceted being. He is love, and He is justice and He is righteousness. We don’t have the option of choosing which facet of God we like and worship – if we choose one without the others, we have created an idol. He is wholly and completely righteous, loving and just.
So let’s take a look at the Old Testament for a minute. Since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, the world has been under judgment. The ENTIRE world, not just parts of it. That judgment is reflected throughout the Old Testament. Some examples would be found in: Amos 3. In this chapter God’s logic toward judgment of Israel is revealed, based upon their transgressions. In Deuteronomy 32 the Lord makes it clear that He will judge His people, and in Joel 3 He promises to judge all nations. The punishment of Adam and Eve is in Genesis 3:16-19. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18:20. King Saul was rejected by the Lord in 1 Samuel 15. Uzziah was killed for touching the Ark of the Covenant in 2 Samuel 6:6-8. King David was punished for calling for a census in 2 Samuel 24. The Plagues fell upon Egypt in Exodus 7.
And what about the judgment in the New Testament? In John 3:18-21 we are told that those who refuse to believe the gospel prefer darkness to light and are condemned. In Romans 1:18-20 the wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness. And in Romans 1:24,26,28 those who refused to turn from their wickedness are rewarded by God as He gave them up to uncleanness, vile passions and debased minds.
But God is not only a God of judgment. He is a loving God. It breaks His heart when His creation, which He loves so completely, dishonors Him. So He turned to the Christ and He said, “okay, Son, time to send in the big gun.” And in so doing, He made a way of escape for the people He loves. Once we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior and LORD, we are free from God’s judgment and can bask in His love. That doesn’t mean we are free to sin – we aren’t. Once we become children of the most high God, He expects us to act like it and He will discipline us if we misbehave. But make no mistake: God is no longer dealing with your sin nature when you are His, He is dealing with your righteousness. No longer is there punishment for sin, but instruction in righteousness. From our viewpoint it may look the same, but rest assured it is not.
How do we answer people who refuse to come to Christ stating an argument of “how could a loving God let such and such happen?” Our answer should come right out of scripture, just as God answered Job in chapter 38: Who are you to question God? God’s ways are not our ways. He doesn’t think in finite terms of time and space as we do. His view is eternal and everything He does is focused on the end goal: to bring as many as possible into the Kingdom before Christ’s return. I confess that God has put me through some things that I would rather not have gone through. In fact, I hated it. But God has a great plan, and the tragedies of my life have been stepping stones to salvation for MANY lives. Isn’t that what life is all about? Shouldn’t your life and my life and the life of every believer become stepping stones to salvation for MANY lives? If we are walking in unconditional love, the kind the Father shows toward us, then our lives will be exactly that.