Wednesday, April 8, 2009

God's unconditional love?

Yesterday I saw a sign in front of a Methodist Church that said, “God loves you unconditionally.” There is some truth to that, of course, for example, if the sign was intending to communicate St. Paul’s teaching that, “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” The same principle is found in the Gospel of John which says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son…”

But Paul makes it very clear that God’s love is not some abstract warm fuzzy unconditional tolerance toward everyone and everything. Paul defines God’s love very precisely when he writes, “God demonstrates his love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” God’s love is demonstrated in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, not by unconditional tolerance of human rebellion.

Paul also makes it very clear that God holds people accountable for what he makes known to them. In Paul’s words, “But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed.”

Similarly in the Gospel of John, the principle that “God so loved the world that he gave his only son” is qualified by “so that whoever believes in him might not perish but have eternal life.”

I suspect that the Methodist sign leaves many readers with the impression that God is always smiling on them, has warm fuzzy feelings toward them, and would never bring them into judgment regardless of how self-centered, unethical or immoral, they are.

Whatever one might say about such a god, it is most definitely NOT the God of the Bible (In fact, it is not the God of the Qur’an either—Muhammad, spoke in extended morbid detail of the torments of hell).

Since ALL of us have, to some extent, been self-centered, unethical and immoral, we are fortunate that God’s grace is “unconditional” toward those who sincerely repent of their sinfulness and turn exclusively to Jesus Christ in loving devotion (faith) as their Savior and King.