God's Unconditional Love, Forgiveness & Sin


I’ve been struggling lately to reconcile a line of thought that goes something like this:

  1. God’s love is unconditional.
  2. But forgiveness of sin (Sacrament of Reconciliation) is a requisite for receiving the state of grace necessary for salvation
  3. Repentance is a requisite for forgiveness.
  4. If I do not repent, or even acknowledge that I NEED to be forgiven, such as our modern denial that sin even exists), I cannot be forgiven.
  5. If repentance and forgiveness are requisites for salvation, and if God’s desire is for all His children to be saved and live with Him eternally in heaven (the definition of Divine Love?), then is His love truly unconditional? Are there not “pre-requisites” for salvation?

and finally;

  1. How do we reconcile all the above with Roman 5:8, 'while we were still sinners Christ died for us"

Please help me to better understand. Thank you.


Parents love their children unconditionally but if a child breaks something in the house the child is expected to say sorry and clean up the mess. The child’s parents forgive him for what he did. Are you suggesting that because the child had to repent (say sorry) and do penance (clean up the mess) his parents don’t love him unconditionally??


Yes, His love is truly unconditional. The necessity of repentance does not nullify that love. Consider this analogy: a man leaves his wife for another woman. His wife never stops loving Him and desires with all her heart that he repent of his adultery and return to her. However, she cannot force him to do so. Love respects the freedom of the other. So unless the man recognizes his own wrongdoing and returns to his rightful love, they shall remain separated.

So it is with man and God. God’s love for his wayward children is unconditional and he desires us all to come back to Him. But love never forces itself on its object. So unless we recognize our need for God and decide to love Him in return, He respects our free choice to do otherwise and we thus remain separated from Him.

and finally;

  1. How do we reconcile all the above with Roman 5:8, 'while we were still sinners Christ died for us"

Please help me to better understand. Thank you.

Christ died for us to make atonement for our sins, which we are incapable of doing on our own. Out of love for us, God Himself pays the debt we could never pay back on our own.

Moreover, He did this not only for the sins that men had already been committed, but every sin that would ever be committed. So, “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” It was an unconditional atonement. He didn’t require us to do anything for Him before He was willing to lay his life down for us.

I hope this was helpful. :slight_smile:


Thanks for the responses. I truly appreciate the time and thought you shared with and for me.

However, the examples cited reflect characteristics of HUMAN love, which falls short of the perfect love (God’s) which we are called to emulate.

Furthermore, acts of forgiveness between humans do not affect our salvation insofar as we do not save each other, per se. Particularly if Jesus has already “paid our sin debt in full”, as I have heard many a Protestant preacher state.

I still go back to my fundamental question, though: If God’s love is unconditional, why do I need to repent of my sins and seek forgiveness?

Tying this into a Catholic perspective, why do I need the Sacrament of Reconciliation? I am not saying that I see no merit in it (and in fact, I seek it as frequently as possible). But we (as Catholics) believe that in order to fully attain the Beatific vision, we must die in a state of grace, which means receiving this Sacrament (assuming it is physically possible to do so).

That state of grace comes from repenting, receiving absolution and performing penance.

If it is God’s Perfect love which desires that we all live with Him eternally in heaven (the Beatific vision), how are these not “pre-conditions” to that unconditional love?

Again, just to clarify, I am not seeking to dispute or discredit, only to better understand. Thank you.


The “conditions” are on the side of the creature and not the Creator. Creature conditions date to the beginning of human history. Here is the original human creature condition.

From this link. ewtn.com/library/catechsm/piusxcat.htm#Preliminary
Condition is in red for emphasis.
42 Q. How is it possible for original sin to be transmitted to all men?
A. Original sin is transmitted to all men because God, having conferred sanctifying grace and other supernatural gifts on the human race in Adam, on the condition that Adam should not disobey Him; and Adam having disobeyed, as head and father of the human race, rendered human nature rebellious against God. And hence, human nature is transmitted to all the descendants of Adam in a state of rebellion against God, and deprived of divine grace and other gifts.

For those interested in the universal Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition, paragraphs 396-398 and 402-405 will be helpful. Paragraphs 355-421 provide excellent background information.


The obedience of Jesus Christ, True God and True Man, repaired the relationship between humanity and Divinity, which relationship had been shattered by the disobedience of Adam. However, Christ’s salvific death and resurrection did not change the status of humans. Humans are still in the position of creature and thus they have to freely live in submission to our Creator. Because of our rational spiritual soul, intellect and will, we have to voluntarily seek our Creator and His full perfection in heaven. This Perfect Presence, face to face, is known as the Beatific Vision.
(CCC, 396 and 1730; CCC, Glossary, Beatific Vision, page 867; CCC, 1028; 1 Corinthians 13: 12)


LI Catholic #4
I still go back to my fundamental question, though: If God’s love is unconditional, why do I need to repent of my sins and seek forgiveness?

God “will award to every man what his acts have deserved.” (Rom 2:6).

Jesus redeemed us (opened Heaven), we have to play our part. If anyone was to be saved unconditionally it would have been Paul! But he clearly showed the error of that: “But I chastise my body, and bring it into subjection lest perhaps, when I have preached to others, I myself should become a castaway.” (1Cor 9:27). And again: “Wherefore he who thinks that he stands, let him take heed lest he fall.” (1 Cor 10:12). Yet again, “And we exhort you not to receive the grace of God in vain.” (2 Cor 6:1).

“It is not those who say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’, who will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the person who does the will of My Father in heaven.” (Mt 7:21).
When asked “What must I do to have eternal life?” Jesus answered, “Keep the commandments.” (Mt 19:16-17).

“God does love us unconditionally in that he loves us even in our sins. But he cannot love our sins. He cannot love evil. He will always forgive us if we repent. To love him back, we must be free to choose to love him or not. Love cannot be programmed or forced. To love him is the greatest thing we can do for ourselves. But we can choose to not love him. Our choice to not love him does not diminish his unconditional love. But it certainly diminishes ours!” [My emphasis].
Answered by: Fr. Vincent Serpa O.P.


You are equating love with forgiveness. They are not the same thing. I love my children, but to forgive them without true sorrow on their part is not an act of love toward them, but rather an act of injustice toward them.

closed #8

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