What does this mean to you?

Hello everyone. I am a Catholic and I’m trying to understand the position of two friends of mine on a particular subject: the love of God for us. I’m told this is “unconditional.” I’ve obviously misunderstood what this means to each of them and need some clarification of the differing ways in which this phrase gets explained. So here’s the question: what does the phrase “unconditional love of God” mean to you and how do you apply that to your faith walk?

Glenda

Boy, that’s hard. If we are talking about God Himself; He is Love. In short, His very nature (triune) and His character defines what love is. What we can’t do is take that and apply it generally; well since God is love, He loves all things. No, He doesn’t, for He most assuredly doesn’t love sin.

Love plays a large role in the salvation process, “for God so loved the world.” So in one sense God does love unconditionally, but we aren’t just concerned for the love of God, but also for His justice, and His mercy. God does love us even though we are sinners, but that does not insure (as some argue) that everyone is “saved” or will be saved (universalism). We humans need to understand our situation as sinners, and then understand that God does love, and He provides salvation as a free gift. It is still up to us to place our faith on God and His Love.

In short, you are right, we have to get some idea of what the person we are talking to means by God’s unconditional love. Not just how they define it, but how they apply it.

Not sure what more we can say to add what has been said in your other thread on this same topic…But here goes.

We are told and shown in the NT that God IS Love (1 John 4:7-8) and that all the law and the prophets are based on Love (Mt 22:36-40) and that we are to Love one another as God has Christ has loved us (John13:34-35) - so perfectly that we are willing to lay down our lives for another (John 15:13). Paul leaves no room for doubt that Love is the most important of the virtues (1 Cor 13:1-13) - - and Jesus tells us that we must be perfect in Love "as your heavenly father is perfect. (Mt 5:43-48)

Because God Loves me - he guides me with His rod and His staff. He gives me insights and he chastises me. He invites me to come closer to Him even though His majesty and glory can be frightening and I might recoil.
Yet still he is patient with me. His Love will not give up on me and so it is my task to not give up on myself or on Him.

God’s great and unconditional Love means that, if I am to be perfected in Him, I must go and show this Love to the world…most often in small ways, but ways that are unmistakable to one with eyes to see.
It is my task in this life to adhere to and seek to grow in and to become the Love that God gives to me…and to do that I must do all I can to love others unconditionally.

Hope this helps some

Peace
James

God is Love. We exist for no other reason than that He wanted to make us; we did not earn, nor consent to, our existence. His love towards us is not a reward for good behavior and it isn’t lost through bad behavior. He does not merely tolerate us with the possibility of ‘warming up’ to us later on if we’re good enough. He loves us just because He does, and we exist just because He willed us into being as objects of His love, however terrible that existence might seem to us at times, whatever we might end up doing or not doing. Love pre-existed us and gave us our being

I think that sometimes, people confuse love with a reward merited by good behavior. A ‘love’ that withholds commitment, coldly tolerating its minion until said minion performs the required tasks perfectly enough and doesn’t fail, isn’t love.

Perhaps instead of seeking what “God’s unconditional love for me” means to me [anyone], you should ask what conclusion is drawn by that?

For example, God loves me uncondidtionally. That means, to me, that no matter what I do in life, God will love me. Okay, but what is my conclusion to this truth? Does that mean that I go to Heaven even if I have rejected God because He loves me unconditionally? Or does His unconditional love for me include His willingness to let me go my own way if I choose to, even choosing Hell over Him? Some people are under the impression that God’s unconditional love for us leads to a lack of free will. While others believe that His gift to us of ‘free will’ is part of that love, and part of loving us involves allowing us to choose.

God’s love is not contingent to what we do. You cannot make God stop loving you, nor can you make Him love you more.

It is stated that the love of God is like fire. The seraphim are said to “burn of God’s love”, and it is said that the saints in heaven experience this seraphic fire as an infinite bliss, the souls in purgatory as a painful purifying fire, and the souls in hell as an unbearable torment. This is because it is the same love, but the difference is in how the soul experiences it.

It could be argued that the Blessed Virgin perceived God’s love to the highest degree a living being can perceive it. The souls in purgatory are aware of God’s loving presence to a degree incomparable to ours, so they experience a burning desire to be purified and be with him. We, too, would experience that if we were aware of God’s loving presence. But we often perceive His love in consolations, and we don’t often acknowledge it in desolation and contrition. The souls in hell are unable to love, and the awareness of God’s presence and unconditional love is experienced as a great sorrow - they hate that He loves them of infinite love. This is a great mystery.

Point being: God loves us. In fact, “Deus caritas est”, “God is love” (1 Jn 4:16).

It’s difficult to provide a satisfying answer to these questions when we are using different definitions of what conditional means.
As other poster have pointed out, God is love.
Human beings can choose to live outside of God’s love. So in that sense, our choices determine how we accept that love. We make the conditions.
When we screw up, God’s justice is part of his love for us. So the consequences we suffer for rejecting God are not proof that his love is conditional.

But the answer to the question “is God’s love for us without condition”, is yes, from the Church, Scriptures, the saints, all tell us yes, God’s love is unconditional.

Think of this for a moment. God is all knowing, all good, all powerful.

He knew we would reject him from all eternity. Before he created us, he knew what it would cost him to make us, that he would suffer like one of us. He knew the debasement that he would suffer in the person of Jesus Christ.
He is all good, he did not need to create us to be complete in his goodness. He is the complete good himself. We provide no utility to God whatsoever, he is all in himself.
He does not need us to be loving, he Is love, Father Son and Holy Spirit.
He is all powerful, he could have made us or not made us. He could have made us so that we would not sin.
But he did not, he made us with free will, knowing full well the depths of our betrayal of his love, that we would crucify him.

Who does that?
Only someone who loves utterly without conditions, who pours himself out in gracious love because that’s who he is. He is overflowing, abundant, gracious love that knows absolutely no cost and no limit, giving his whole self. We cannot comprehend. But we are very blessed indeed.

I take it to mean God will reach out to anyone who seeks him. Reguardless of what our sin problems are he will take us in and cleanse us.

Well, so far so good. I’d like to thank everyone so far for the replies. This is helping.

I still don’t believe God loves me without conditions and that the giving of the Law is a loving thing and that my keeping them is a loving response to God’s love of me. In this regard I cannot see God loving me personally without conditions. I cannot find Scripture that says specifically God loves unconditionally. That word, unconditional, is an addition and I think it is wishful thinking. I cringe when I here the term and want to shout “There are conditions! They’re the Ten Commandments.” etc, which for me includes all that goes with being a good and faithful Catholic. That is our loving response to God’s love for us. It seems very simple and logical to me, but then I do get told that isn’t the point.

I guess I should probably say this, I love God - He loves me. It is reciprocal and though I’m not one to share the particular intimacies of this relationship, it has been deeply moving and intense at times. A passionate thing that shocked me. Yeppers, there it is. Too personal for me to share that with others easily but I guess I needed to so you won’t get the impression I don’t believe God loves me which I think is how some folks interpreted my question on another thread and I don’t want to repeat a misunderstanding.

The reason I’m asking is because in my faith walk I have two persons that placed a very restrictive meaning on the phrase “unconditional love.” To them God’s love was the means by which they are saved from His wrath. He loves them so they’re not going to worry too much about pleasing Him or doing His will, or as I asked in particular Convert/revert to the Church because God wills it, etc. They look at me like there is something wrong with me because I lack an understanding of this unconditional love of God for me. Then they repeat the story of God sending His Son to die for them and how “unconditional” that is in terms of love which yes, I sort of agree having grown children of my own and know something about sacrifice, but another part of me says, “yeah but that death is what I, personally, owed God for my sins. He paid my debt.” Those are the conditions He laid out when He gave the Law back when Moses was up on the Mountain getting the big rule book for everyone! It said life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth etc. The debt was created by God when He gave the Law and He meant to keep it and it was fulfilled in His Son. He completed what He started in the Old Covenant that’s why He said He came not to abolish the Law, but to fulfill. The death He died on the Cross were the conditions of which He entered into life as a flesh and blood Son, the Son of Man. It is finished. His words. That is why when He comes again it will be for the Judgment. These are all conditions. They are fulfilled in Christ.

I hope I’m making it clearer how I veer off the “beaten path” of accepting the phrase “unconditional love” of God. I can’t get it through my head. Pray for me. Maybe I’ll get it, (if there’s even an it to get). Maybe my thinking is too black and white or something.

Maybe if they said God loves magnanimously or beneficently I could agree. But I’m sorry I cannot agree with “unconditionally.”

Anything else some wants to add would be appreciated.

Glenda

I think it isn’t a Scriptural argument so much as a logical one. Only God is necessary; nothing else HAS to exist. St. Francis de Sales, in his “Introduction to the Devout Life,” describes our existence as an act of divine mercy; there was no absolute necessity for my creation and God could have brought any number of beings into existence in my place, but out of His mercy and for no other reason, He made ME. Can Hate create life and sustenance? People starve to death, but the capacity for living was provided even though the individual circumstances were evil.

Also, it was a struggle for me, too, to separate God’s unconditional Love from conditional favor or reward that might depend on my behavior. I’m not saying that I’m done struggling, either! :o

Yes - the above helps a lot…Sounds like you are dealing with a couple of OSAS believers.
It would frustrate me too…

Not sure how I can answer in order to help you deal with that outlook…

But I’m sure others here can…:thumbsup:

Peace
James

He is spotless, blameless, infinitely good, deserving of all praise and undeserving of any punishment. Yet

he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

If conditions apply, none of us can meet them. This is the un-measurable magnitude of the gift we are given.

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

Hi Glenda,

Glad this discussion is helpful.

Let me say that Scripture, that is to say, divine revelation, is not necessary to know that God loves us unconditionally. This is one of those characteristics which can be understood by reason alone. This is not like, say, the fact that God is a Blessed Trinity, or that Christ is One Divine Person in Two Natures. However, since we both have the gift of faith whereby we believe in the Lord’s revelation through Sacred Scripture, let’s limit ourselves to what Scripture tells us about God’s love, and whether it is conditional (that is, based on conditions) or unconditional.

Before we do that - that is, before I show you through Scripture that God indeed loves unconditionally - we must be clear on one thing: God cannot force us to love Him. This means that He gave us a Law out of love, a Law He also engraved in our hearts, but this Law is to prevent us from injuring others and offending Him out of lack of love on our side. It is our love that is problematic. The apostle states: “love fulfills the Law”. Love fulfills the Law, it does not abolish it. If I love, I will not, say, steal. If I steal, clearly I am not loving. If I am not loving, then I have closed myself to God’s love. He still loves me, but I am either loving him in an imperfect way, or not at all. His love, then, hurts me. You can easily understand this if you ever loved someone who was angry or upset at you, did not want to talk to you, etc. Anyone who had a heartbreak also experienced this, whereby we greatly love someone who does not love us back. His refusal to love hurts and moves us to want the loved one back. We would sometimes try everything in order to have the loved one back. This is, in a pale way, what the Lord feels towards sinners.

This is the basic understanding of the state of Hell. The souls in Hell are not, figuratively speaking, forced there by angry demons while they cry in repentance and beg God to save them. No, those souls are in this state because they desire to be there. Because they do not love God. They hate Him. And the affliction and pain of Hell is nothing but the experience of God’s love, reaching them and permeating them in a way that is so full we cannot even grasp as humans in time and space, a love they do not want and yet they are immersed in. This is just, in a sense, like when we sin and we perceive our conscience tormenting us. That torment is the perception of God’s love. I perceive God loves me, God still loves me and I have offended Him. His love pierces my soul, because I see myself sullied, and He still loves me. I want to be thus cleaned in order to respond to His love (and I am cleaned by penance, by sacrifice, by faithful keeping of the Law, by obedience, by works of mercy, etc.) but I have no doubt that He still loves me. In fact, the greatest temptation is always to make us doubt of God’s love, for this leads unto unrepentance and perdition.

Psalm 130:3-4; 51:17

“If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you is found forgiveness. …] My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.”

The cry of the sinner is clear: how can I survive if God marks my sins? If the life-giving love of God is contingent upon conditions that I must be fulfilled, and which I always break by my constant sinning (“a righteous man falls seven times”, Proverbs 24:16), then how will I ever attain it? But the psalmist instead declares: with God is found forgiveness. What is forgiveness? Forgiveness is the remission of an offence. It can be obtained in two ways: by doing reparation for the offence, or by an act of the will to simply forgive. The psalmist cries that his sins are so great he simply will not be able to stand before God, for he cannot offer reparation for them all. Yet he does not despair, and he insists: all I have to offer is my sorrow for the sins I have committed, and this God will not refuse, because even though I am a sinner, He still loves me the same.

Isaiah 1:18; 43:25

“Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool. …] I, even I, am He Who blots out and cancels your transgressions, for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”

What is the Lord speaking here? That no matter how great a sin, it can still be forgiven. Why is forgiveness given to the sinner? Either because the sinner does something to deserve it, or because God loves him despite his sinfulness. And the Lord says: “for My own sake I will cancel your transgressions and no longer remember your sins”. The Lord forgives because He loves the sinner, even after he sinned, and gravely. Remember the Prodigal Son? ““Father, I’ve sinned against heaven and you. I don’t deserve to be called your son anymore.” The father said to his servants, ‘Hurry! Bring out the best robe, and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger…My son was dead and has come back to life.” The Father’s love is not in question here…the Father still loved the son, even after he no longer deserved to be called his son. He had never ceased loving him. For years he kept watching and when he saw him, he literally ran out of the house to embrace him. The Father did not care about all the son had done because he loved Him without conditions - he is his father, and the child is his son.

Jeremiah 31:3

The Lord has appeared from afar to me. “Yes, I have loved you with everlasting love, therefore have I drawn you, taking pity on you.”

Now the Lord speaks through the prophet stating: “I have loved you with everlasting love.” What kind of love is that which deserves the attribute of “everlasting”? A love that by definition has no end. Such a love is subject to no conditions. God loves (it is His will to love those He creates, for out of love He creates them) and with everlasting love (a beloved creature cannot lose this love, no matter what). Now what happens when sin occurs? Love is interrupted or diminished on our side - we are the ones who love with finite love, since we are finite creatures. But the Lord, who loves of infinite love, takes pity on us sinners and draws us back to Him again. It is out of this unconditional love that when we fail to love Him back, He lowers Himself out of pity for us and comes and draws us back to Him - which Christ wonderfully depicted as the behavior of the Good Shepherd, of the Father running out as soon as he sees His son return, but in a special way, of Peter.

In His omniscence, Christ knew Peter would gravely sin by denying Him three times in the moment of greatest need (while He was telling the Sinhedrin “ask those who have heard me”, his main disciple was outside saying: “I know not that man”. Yet, out of love, He foretold this to Him, in order to make Him aware of the fact that He loved him regardless. And this is why, when Peter met the Lord again face to face, it was the Lord who asked Peter: “do you love me?”. Because sin injures our love towards Christ, not Christ’s love towards us.

John 3:16, Luke 5:32, John 15:13, Romans 5:8

God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…“I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance”…“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”…God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

This is essential. Why does Christ come to us? In between creation and the Birth of Christ, all we did was to sin, and greatly. The chosen people, too, had been repeatedly unfaithful to the Old Covenant (as Scripture describes again and again). So why take a further step after all this, and come to us in Christ the Son, and go as far as to suffer and die for our sins? What is this great deed done that moved God to love us of such love? What condition was fulfilled? In truth, no condition was fulfilled. Seeing that in two occasions (in the state of original holiness and in the Old Covenant) man had been unfaithful to God, God decided to take the last step and to come in person. He would take flesh, become man, and prove His unconditional love by laying down his very life for his friends…and as the apostle reminds us, his friends were not the righteous, but the sinners. For the salvation of sinners he came, and for the salvation of sinners he died.

continued ->

John 1

The Word was with God and the Word was God. …] He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name, who were born , not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God…and the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.

Why was John 1 read at the end of Holy Mass? Because it is a treasure of our Catholic faith. Let’s see this passage. God was in the world, and the world did not recognize Him. He went to those who were His own, and they rejected Him. What kind of love keeps Him there at this point? Only a love given freely, based on no condition whatsoever. This love brings Him to do this: to whoever receives Him, and believes in His name, He gives them the right (the RIGHT) to become children of God. So He comes down, and He is rejected. Instead of being angry, He is so full of love that He gives not just forgiveness, but a share in the very divine nature, to anyone who accepts Him and believes. And not just any share - a right of adoption! This is not something that can later be taken away. Those who are in this love are spiritually reborn of God (or, as Christ says, “born again of water and spirit” since “that which is born of the flesh, is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit, is spirit.”). What conditions are there to this kind of love?

Matthew 5

“I say to you, love your enemies…so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven…be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Now this is as clear and direct as it gets. What is the Lord telling us concerning love itself? That it is to be given without conditions! For He does not say: “love those who love you”, or “love your brothers”; rather He says: “love your enemies”! That is, in addition to the obvious, you must also extend your love to those who do not have any love towards you! Now this is not just a teaching about ourselves, but even a teaching concerning God Himself: for the Lord adds that this is how God Himself loves, that is, extending His love to the good and the evil, to the righteous and the unrighteous.

Romans 8

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? … I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Amen!

Perhaps it would be easier of you specified that you are called to love others as you are loved, **period *end of sentence. The claim I keep making is that the qualifier “unconditional” keeps getting used and it does add something *that may not actually be true about our relationship with God. Those persons who I’ve heard use the term aren’t Catholics at all.

I think today’s first reading for the Mass says exactly what I’ve meant all along: 1 John 5:3 “For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.”

James, thanks for your input on the subject, but I still think the word “unconditional” is not good to use in describing the mercy with which God forgives. If you mean the merciful love of God then say that. If you mean the providential love of God then say that, but the implication that comes with the word “unconditional” is Protestant theology and I think it is dangerous to use it.

Please read Benedict XVI’s Encyclical Deus Caritas Est and see if that doesn’t help you understand my point. We can all love God a little better.

But I’m no expert and these are just my humble opinions. If you need to think God loves you unconditionally go right ahead.:stuck_out_tongue:

Glenda

Actually I think I do see your point and it is a good one. Perhaps the term does need to be used very carefully if at all.

You mention non-Catholics (protestants) using this term and it may be that they are holding more to a OSAS type of view where their actions have no effect on their salvation - hence no conditions. But as others have explained, often times it is we who place the conditions.

An analogy might be that parent who produces a wonderful meal and then calls to the family to come and eat it. All they have to do is bestir themselves to come and sit and eat. If they choose not to…well that is their choice. If they call to the parent to bring the food to them and the parent refuses - has the parent placed a condition on their eating?
I suppose one can say they have - - but then again - - -:shrug:

I do appreciate your asking the question. It’s a good thing to think about and discuss.

Peace
James

Eze 18:32 For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.

also, think about the young man who took his inheritance, wasted it, and came to his senses. What conditiions did his father put on him?

I must respectfully but radically disagree with you here. And I assume you are not downplaying God’s love, but let me just throw this out for folks who are reading and having doubts about the Christian concept of God…

A case can be made that the unconditional love of God is THE core message in proclaiming the Gospel (good news) and should be shouted from the rooftops.

Speaking about the good news without proclaiming God’s unconditional love is simply not speaking the truth. This is the lie that the deceiver whispers to all people
“Be perfect or God will not love you! He will abandon you when you fail him! He loves only the worthy!” This is the god of death, the god of self justification. It is a cheap imitation of who God is. It casts God as a maker of bargains rather than love himself. If satisfying rules alone, like the ten commandments, are the conditions for God’s love, then why did Jesus take on our flesh and die!!! God gave us the commandments to follow. We couldn’t and can’t follow them perfectly. We can never justify ourselves by our righteousness (Mt 19:16-26) A god who does not love unconditionally would throw us into hell right here. But no he sent his son to die for our misery!

No one can satisfy conditions for God’s love, Jesus is the one and only satisfier of all conditions. There is no other. Anything else is a lie.

This is the fundamental message of our faith… that God is eternally faithful in his love despite the fact that human beings reject him. His love is eternally present without exception, without condition. It’s fundamental to Christianity that God, who is infinitely and unconditionally good, became human flesh and suffered debasement. The magnitude of His sacrifice is defined by who Jesus is. The magnitude of His sacrifice is not conditioned by our fallen nature. Think of what a huge insult this is to the person of Jesus Christ!, to say that his cross does not unconditionally cover our fallen human nature. He is who he is, just like “I Am Who Am”. He is not who he is because of who we are. He is God, we are not. The only question is will we kneel at the cross and acknowledge him…or will we doubt his love.

If we can’t state this basic truth with confidence and conviction we fail our responsibilities as Christians. (but God still loves us)

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