have recently started going to a local Apostolic church, and well, dear reader, I have some mixed feelings about it. More on that later. Right now, let me get to the reason for today's post. Today's message, given by an assistant pastor, and was titled...well, I can't remember the title of today's message, but part of it that stuck with me was about God's unconditional love for us, and this idea was thrown around quite a bit. To be honest, it really chapped my spiritual hide. Why? Because, this idea is not Scriptural, not to mention, unrealistic even on a worldly level. Dear reader, please understand, languages deteriorate over time. It is a struggle to keep a language from being polluted by laziness, do I need to explain that? Okay, just listen to today's youth and compare their vernacular to how children spoke in the 50's. It's embarrassing, isn't it? I can just hear the character Henry Higgins clicking a disapproving tongue and see him roll his haughty eyes regarding the pure laziness of "English" speakers. The war on words is real, people!
Speaking of languages, the ancient Greeks had at least seven words for the different kinds of love. Seven, not one. They are: Eros (erotic, or romantic), philia (brotherly affection), Storge (parental love for children), Agape (selfless), Ludus (playful), Pragma (long lasting), Philautia (self love). I like that, because that makes the emotion of "love" so specific, unlike the degenerate hippy dippy general haphazard definition of "love" that is thrown around these days like a joint at a real bender. Hey, just because I'm a sheltered Sandra Dee type (who's saved by God's grace) that doesn't mean I don't know about some of the seedy things that go on in this world. The world is getting so lazy in its words that their movers and shakers would have us believe their nonsense that love is love, no matter what kind. I. DON'T. THINK. SO!
So that's why we should turn to the Greeks for some sanity via their definitions of the seven types of love, which clearly shows not all love is the same. And, let's not forget that the New Testament was written in Greek. Now I'm sure you know the type of love that God has and embodies, which according to Scripture is of course agape (uh-gah'-pay), and it is the highest form of selfless love that there is. No surprise there, since God is the highest and most awesome sinless being there is. Here are some synonyms of agape that will further help us understand what it means, ready?
- agog - full of intense interest or excitement
- anticipant - expectant
Open-eyed, open-mouthed, alert, vigilant, watchful, anxious, athirst, breathless, eager, enthusiastic, raring, antsy, impatient, restive, restless.
Now I ask you, in what way do any of those words imply or mean "unconditional?" I can tell you with one hundred percent certainty that the definition of agape isn't: love that isn't subject to conditions. The cockamamie idea that God's love is "unconditional" is just another symptom of Hippyitis, which continues to infect the church of our Lord Jesus Christ. "What is hippyitis?" Thank you for asking. It's a word that I made up, and means: "an infection transmitted by the reckless souls that undermines traditional values by using the ideals of a rebellious subculture." And I for one, am sick of it! No, I'm not sick with it; I'm sick OF it! Maybe I'm so sensitive to this sloppy agape, because I was only until recently cured of this damnable infection, thank God! And it pains me to see it still floating around and infecting the pulpit, of what I had hoped would be, a sound doctrinal church. So what is the antidote to this debilitating spiritual disease? The Sword of the Spirit, which is able to cut this infectious crud from the body of Christ, and by its power, restore health to the heart and soul of the church's members. So, let's get our Scriptural scalpels out and get to cutting!
Since we used the Greek language's seven definitions for love that actually translate well across the board to English, now let's look at the word: condition. Guess what? Greek has at least three words I found, for "condition." And they pretty much carry the same meaning in English, so to save time, we'll just go with my mother tongue. The word "condition" is both a noun and a verb.
The noun form means: 1. the state of something with regard to its appearance, quality, or working order and 2. the circumstances affecting the way in which people live or work, especially with regard to their safety or well-being.
The verb form means: 1.have a significant influence on or determine (the manner or outcome of something) and 2. bring (something) into the desired state for use.
I think we know that conditions in general can be good or bad, based on who is setting the terms and why, or in what state of use they are in. God's only sets conditions that are always geared for our benefit -- always, even if we don't agree with, or like them. And by reading and understanding those definitions, I hope it is becoming quite clear to you that there are people, who do not like anything that subjects them to any obligation or authority, and will automatically despise any conditions, unless of course the set conditions are only beneficial to them, but also without any consequences. Hypocritical? Selfish? Absolutely! These selfish conditional hypocrites are troublemakers in human societies, i.e. hippies, and other criminals of varying degrees. But the sad thing is that according to Scripture, everyone who was and ever will be born this side of eternity is a criminal of varying degrees in God's righteous eyes. That includes even you and yours-truly. I know, but we can't get away from it, sorry. So this is why they came up with their novel notion of unconditional love.
But there is good news for us sinners! This is where God's agape love comes in to save the day! Even though our sinful condition makes us worthy of execution, God's agape love has made a way to redeem us by his cross! Now all we have to do is accept his blood sacrifice made on our behalf, and then obey his commandments. Our obedience proves our love for him, while his willingness to die for our sins has proven his everlasting love for us. Did you get that? Do you see how "unconditional love" is utter non-sense? While I kind of get the gist of what the well intended infectious agents of counter culture are trying to convey; the end result is hippy-dippy hooey, a.k.a. false teaching.
Yes, dear reader, nouns like love and condition have verbs forms. Love is proven by deeds, and conditions are made known by how the rules are kept, based on truth or law. To illustrate, I will use the subject of children. I have children, and yes of course, I do love them; they are flesh of my flesh, and bone of my bone. But, as all parents know, at times, children are a royal pain in the butt, can I get an "Amen"? When my own children have been so rebellious and so incredibly evil that I want to kill them, and there were even times, dare I say cringing, that I hated them, that's when I hang my head in sorrow and say, "Oh Lord, I get it. I'm sorry." I'm fairly sure the Lord enjoys those moments of empathy. So, would you agree that that is a truly complicated and scary emotion?-- well, for us anyway. I know, dear reader, I'm just trying to keep it real here.
So many times, when my children (my youngest specifically) send me into that crazy realm of homicidal thoughts, that's when my starge love for my children supersedes my hatred of them. Thank God for that! And that is to say, I love them despite their sinning little selves, which is important to note, that despite means even though. Even though my children sin against me, I still love them. That is not unconditional love, dear reader, that's the condition of parental love. It over looks the wrong, and loves the wrong doer anyway. Hey, I think Scripture says that God has that kind of merciful love for us, and more! And I think that is the intended meaning when the spiritually clueless, use the misnomer of unconditional love, to relate God's love to the equally spiritually clueless masses. Do you understand God's love a bit better? I hope so.
Speaking of discipline and love, aren't we told in Scripture that if we don't discipline our children, then that proves that we don't love them? Uh oh, no hippy wants to hear that. Well, here is another biblical truth that hippies hate too: sin must be punished as a condition of righteousness. Therefore, because God is love and he is also righteous, then he will have those he loves/hates thrown into hell only because he has to, in order to satisfy his righteousness. Not because he wants to reject them, but because they chose to reject him, in spite of what he did for them. Harsh? That depends on whose side you're on. I think it's deplorable to reject such a costly and loving gift of mercy. Besides, that right there, is the phenomenon known as tough love! That kind of love also gives hippies a rash and makes them want to split.
And so, like God, because I love my children, I must set conditions and then punish their bad deeds when the conditions have been broken. Is that bad? No, of course not! Yes, there are people who try to make God out to be an angry God, who can't wait to punish us with lightening bolts from his lofty throne, while others make him out to be a cosmic sugar-daddy who only wants to bless us with health and wealth, if only we'd believe and say the right magic words. But, honestly, none of these childish extremes are true, or even Scriptural. God is the best parent in the universe. The extremely complicated emotions of both loving and hating your naughty child at the same time, are of course, loaded with conditions, and are geared toward obedience, and can only be handled correctly by God at all times, who never ever loses control of himself. Us?--eh, not so much.
The hosts of the unconditional love virus often spew John 3:16 as a way to protect their desire to stay in their fallen condition. Whether they realize it or not, they show their lack of spiritual and English comprehension by assuming this verse means that God's love is unconditional. Dear reader, when we interpret Scripture, we must do so from God's point of view, not from our fallen nature's point of view. In reality, that verse teaches us that agape love gives out of mercy, which sets up the condition that there must be someone who is in need receiving the gift of mercy, after all, one must receive what is being given, or there is no gift, right? So, in that verse, God is the one who is giving salvation through the sacrifice of his son. To whom is the gift being given? To any sinner who believes, which is the condition of the gift. The expectation of action is what is behind the meaning of "believes" in that verse. How do we receive his gift? We must acknowledge that what he says about us is true, which is that we are in the sad state of condition of being sinners, and then we must act in obedience to his requirements i.e. conditions for salvation. Works? No. Repentance. For surely, Satan and his minions believe there is a powerful almighty God, but that belief alone can't save them from their fate. Because, they don't love God, proven by their evil deed of sedition, and are continuously rebellious toward God's commandments, they are forever lost with no hope of salvation. They will not relent, or repent of what they have done.
In 1 John 4:8-11 (where John says God is agape) John expounds upon what he wrote in John 3:16, further defining the reason behind the gift of salvation, merciful love, which is after all the meaning behind propitiation. It is a direct reference to the mercy seat on the Ark of the Covenant, and if you know your Old Testament Scriptures, that is where the blood was sprinkled once a year for the remission of the people's sins, on the Day of Atonement. He further argues that if God loved us in our sad state of sin, and made a way out for us, because he loved us, while we didn't love him, then the least we can do is to obey his commandment, to love one another. Elsewhere, Jesus said, "Why do you call me 'Lord' and don't do what I say?" Good point, Jesus. Did Jesus ever say, "I like you the way you are, you don't have to do what I say."? Don't make me cackle. Jesus gave us his command to love one another even as he loved us, so he expects us to obey that command. John laid out the conditions that prove we are God's, which is that we love one another even as God loved us by giving his Son to die for our sins. That is a condition called mercy, because we don't deserve such a wonderful gift. Oh, and I believe that unconditional love is another viral manifestation of that other nauseating hippy notion, "free love." These ear tickling love euphemisms, symptomatic of Hippyitis, come from an adulterous heart that doesn't want any pesky strings attached that would make it responsible for its actions. Being responsible to tradition or authority is not a very groovy kind of love for hippies.
So, instead of incorrectly saying God's love is "unconditional," we need to rightly say what the Bible says about his love. Paul perfectly describes God's love in 1 Corinthians 13. His love is everlasting. It's all consuming, it's ever giving, believes and hopes all good things, it forgives wrongs, it isn't haughty or boastful. It isn't easily provoked, and thinks no evil; never rejoicing in iniquity, but always rejoices in the truth, and it never fails! Those are the conditions of God's love. We are also told in Scripture to love in deed and truth, not in words only, which is what a hypocrite does. So, I'm calling for the mature body of Christ to stop with the hippy dippy love talk, enough is enough! All though well meaning, it's childish, nonsensical, and damaging. Kind of like its source.