I’m writing about bad Church teaching, and this week, I want to discuss a popular teaching about God: His Unconditional Love. I truly believe that when the Church starts taking its teachings, doctrines and beliefs from pop songs rather than the Bible, it has lost its way. The problem with today’s teaching about the Love of God is that it has its roots more in the sappy lyrics of Billy Joel than the Bible.
Here are the first and last couplets of Just The Way You Are, by Billy Joel:
Don’t go changing to try and please me
You never let me down before
I could not love you any better
I love you just the way you are
“Just The Way You Are”
I realize that the Church is trying to get the message out that God is Love, and that God loves them. After all, “God SO loved the world,…” right? But somehow, whether it be through sloppiness or sappiness, the fact is that our teaching about God’s love has lost the reason for Christ’s sacrifice, to save the world.
I know that it is urgent that people hear the gospel, but is it the gospel if we leave out the why of the matter? Robert Schuller to the contrary, the problem with the world is NOT lack of self-esteem, the problem is rebellion against God; in a word, SIN. I believe that well-meaning Christians, in an attempt to present the gospel in as positive light as possible, are basically communicating self-esteem building, assuring folks that God does love them.
“God loves you.” Yes. Thankfully, yes! This is a message that even your neighborhood Curmudgeon needs to hear, and often. But, unlike Billy Joel’s sappy version, God loves you DESPITE the way you are.
God’s Conditional Love
Let’s face it. If you are a Christian reading this blog, you should have no problems with my statement that mankind is lost and separated from God. If you do disagree with this, then please leave. You have to deny the divinity of Jesus and the place of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross to disagree with that statement, and according to my understandings of the teachings of the Church (see my writings on the Creed, on my God Stuff page), the redemption of the Cross is the central message of the Gospel.
Yes, God loves everyone; everybody, everywhere. BUT He loves us despite ourselves, not because of ourselves. He loves the rapist, not because he’s a rapist, but despite the fact that he violates women. He loves adulterers; not because they cheat on their spouses, but despite the fact that they violate their marriage vows. God loves alcoholics, not because they are alcoholics, but despite the fact that they get falling-down drunk. Yes, God loves. It’s inexplicable, but He does. But He hates sin.
Sin is so offensive to God that, despite His love for us, He will judge people for that sin and send them into eternal darkness and separation from Him. God is not some doting grandfather who winks at His grandchildren’s cute little peccadilloes, chuckling at the little rapscallions. Jesus taught that He will say, “Depart from me, I never knew you!” I know that it’s considered gauche to talk about this, but, hey, what are you gonna do? After all, Christianity is named after Jesus Christ, right?
Is God A Bad Christian?
Yes, as I stated above, God loves everyone, and desires that all may come to salvation. But the fact is that Jesus, Paul, and the Old and New Testament writers taught that there would be a day of judgment, and that God would judge sin. Our desire to be loved makes us obscure that teaching, to the detriment of our gospel, and to the detriment of our lives.
We have people basically teaching that we have to be better than God. Preachers, writers and counselors tell us that we have to extend unconditional love to others, because God’s love is unconditional. When I’ve disagreed with this, people try to steer me to 1 Cor. 13, the Love Chapter of the Bible, and tell me all the things that Love does and how unconditional it is. But the problem is that God Himself doesn’t measure up as a Christian if you pervert 1 Cor. to support the idea of Unconditional Love.
Let’s look at some examples:
Shot – “Love is not envious” – v.4
Chaser – You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a JEALOUS God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, (Ex. 20:5)
Someone attempted to challenge me, saying that “envy” and “jealousy” are not the same thing. The only problem with that is that four translations have this phrase in v.4 as “Love is not jealous.” (New Living, Weymouth, God’s Word, and the New American Standard.)
Shot – “Love keeps no record of wrongs.” – v. 5
Chaser – And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as RECORDED in the books. (Rev. 20:12)
Sounds to me like God keeps records.
Shot – “Love always protects” – v. 7
Chaser – Otherwise I will strip her naked and make her as bare as on the day she was born; I will make her like a desert, turn her into a parched land, and slay her with thirst. I will not show my love to her children, because they are the children of adultery. (Hosea. 2:3-4)
Of course there are many other examples in the prophets, both major and minor, that demonstrate that God doesn’t ALWAYS protect, but lets the consequences of actions flow.
Shot – “Love does not insist on its own way” v. 5
Chaser – Aw, come on! Really?
Do I even need a chaser here? Hello. Decalogue, anybody?
Shot – “Love is not provoked” .v5 (NASB)
Chaser – [They are] a people who continually PROVOKE me to my very face, offering sacrifices in gardens and burning incense on altars of brick Isa. 65:3
Read Psalm 78 in different translations, and see how many speak of Israel “provoking” God in the wilderness.
Shot – “Love is not rude.” v. 5
Chaser – What would Miss Manners say to such language as, “”You snakes! You brood of vipers!” Not very Emily Post, is it?
If God can’t be Christian enough for these people who push “Unconditional Love”, then something’s wrong with what they’re selling.
The reason that God does not extend “unconditional” love is because it is a contradiction of His nature. God is love, and God is holy. In fact, God shows love AND righteousness by not accepting the sin of the sinner. Unconditional Love would basically confirm us in our ways and make us unfit for society, (as we see in the world around us), and unfit for Heaven and fellowship with God.