rebelling against low expectations

The Unconditional, Undeserved Love of God

T

When we were younger, my sister would copy various poems and quotes and pin them on a cork board in our room. I remember one quote in particular that read, “love is a choice, not a feeling”. Those words stuck with me and left me wondering if love really could be a choice.

At the time I didn’t think so. The love I knew was very emotional and very conditional. It was always, “I love you if__.”

In my mind, love was never guaranteed, and it always had to be earned. I couldn’t understand the idea that anyone would choose to love, much less choose to love unconditionally.

My perspective was born mostly from what I saw in my own home. I watched my parents, who said they loved each other, fight, argue, hurt each other, and in the end divorce over ‘irreconcilable differences.’ For me, unconditional love was a fantasy.

Much of my early life I carried a weight stemming from lies I allowed myself to believe, lies I brought into my walk as a Christian.

Lies that said no one would love me unless I was perfect.

Lies that said love always walked away in the end.

Lies that said God only loved me if___.

Love is Unconditional

We often use the word “love” the same way we would use the word “like”, to describe an emotion, an affinity towards something, or a fleeting experience.

Biblically, love is a commitment. It is an unbreakable covenant. Click To Tweet

Biblically, however, love is a commitment. It is an unbreakable covenant.

In 1 Corinthians 13, perhaps the greatest passage ever written on love, Paul tells us love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”

It is unconditional, undeserved, and unrelenting.

Growing up in church, I’ve known John 3:16 and “Jesus Loves Me” for as long as I can remember, but as a young Christian, I struggled deeply with the idea that God loved me.

The only love I knew had to be earned, and I was a filthy wretch who did not deserve to be loved by a holy God.

In part, I still believe that, because truly I don’t deserve to be loved by a holy God. But how wonderful is the knowledge that despite my sin, despite my failures, God does love me. Not because I earned it, I can’t. Not because I’m worthy of it, I’m not. But because love is in the very nature of God.

“He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:8, emphasis mine)

Love Undeserved

It irks me tremendously when I hear Christian authors or speakers telling people that they’re worthy of God’s love. My friend, the truth is just the opposite:

We don’t deserve God’s love.

At first glance, such a statement may appear discouraging. But in truth, that should be the most freeing thing you’ve heard all day, maybe all year, or perhaps in your entire life.

I believe the Bible clearly teaches that God’s love is undeserved. Consider Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Did you catch that phrase “while we were still sinners”? God epitomized His love for us while we were still His very enemies.

Ephesians 2:4-5 says, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).”

We were dead in our sins and had done, can do, nothing to earn God’s love, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love…” saved us. Read that again. God saved us because He loves us, He doesn’t love us because we are saved or sanctified.

We can’t earn His love because we already have it. And we can’t lose His love because we don’t deserve it in the first place.

God saved us because He loves us, He doesn’t love us because we are saved or sanctified. We can’t earn His love because we already have it. And we can’t lose His love because we don’t deserve it in the first place. Click To Tweet

Romans 8:38-39 reveals the magnitude of God’s love for us. “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

To be clear, I’m not saying God won’t punish those who reject His Son. Because of God’s holiness and justice those who reject Christ are already condemned (John 3:18). However, the idea that we can earn God’s love is extremely dangerous, and unfortunately, extremely prevalent.

The quest to earn God’s love is utterly futile, and its only accomplishment is turning those who undertake it into self-righteous hypocrites or self-loathing failures, neither of which exemplify the Christ-like servant God calls us to be.

Earning God’s favor shouldn’t be our goal as Christians. Instead, we ought to be seeking ever increasing conformation to the image of Christ, and we are made into the image of Christ by God’s power because of His love for us.

We Can Rest in Love’s Arms

Why do so many people struggle to accept God’s unmerited love?

I believe it partly has to do with the fact that we live in a broken world that so very rarely sees God’s kind of love.

Our world has come to accept conditional, inconsistent love as normal, and it truly breaks my heart. Consider marriage and its now almost inseparable companion, divorce. People cheer when a couple says they’ve been married for more than 10 years because such commitment has become a rare occurrence.

Marriage was designed to be an earthly representation of Christ’s unfailing love for His bride the church (Ephesian 5:22-33), but our world has turned it into a twisted mockery of the unconditional, faithful love God intended.

We are now left with such a distorted view of love that we cannot fathom God’s love that sees our sinfulness, our failures, our filthiness, and says, “come anyway.”

In his first epistle, John records the sacred truth that God is love. In his gospel, John demonstrates that Jesus is God incarnate. This makes Jesus love incarnate. When Jesus said, “Come to Me”, Love was beckoning with open arms.

We can rest assured that Love is faithful, committed, unchanging, and wholly unconditionally, undeserved.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

About the author

Rebecca Asi

lives in Central California where she can be found reading, writing, hiking, or spending time with her family. She’s been blessed with many opportunities to serve in and with her church through weekly outreach, a summer missions trip, and the church’s Life Groups. Rebecca’s hope is that through her writing, and in every aspect of her life, she may be able to comfort others with the comfort which God has given to her.

4 comments

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  • thank you so much for putting into words what many other’s can’t. I’ve been trying to figure out how to explain God’s unconditional love to my school’s bible study club (we’re currently talking about the character of God) and your article has helped tremendously! Especially when you explain that we don’t deserve God’s love and so we can’t loose it either. Isn’t God incredible beyond words?

    • Amen Lise!
      God is so good, and I know one way in which He reveals His goodness is using our struggles to encourage others. I feel so privileged to know He was able to use my experiences to encourage you and your club!

  • this article is everything i want to believe and more. thank you so much for writing this. i too struggle with the idea of a love that never walks away or has conditions. exactly what i was looking for <3

rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →