Is God's love conditional? (John 14:21)
I have a question. Perhaps you can help me. The New Testament was written in Greek. Most of the ‘love’ words are ‘agape’. My dictionary and lexicon both define ‘agape’ as unconditional love. 1 John 4:16 says that ‘God is love’, agape. John 3:16 says ‘God so loved the world’, agape; this implies unconditional love, it doesn’t say God loved some in the world. But John 14:21 says “Whoever has my commands and obeys them” … “will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him”. Although the word ‘agape’ is used here, this seems very conditional. It seems like I have been taught that God’s love is unconditional; is it, or isn’t it? Can you help me understand?
It is true that God loves the world unconditionally. However, he does not force us to love him. If we choose to rebel, to sin, and refuse to accept his offer of salvation, then he accepts this decision on our part. If we are not willing, then we will not be saved. According to God, willingness includes obedience. This does not mean that he has put conditions on his love. If a person loves their spouse unconditionally, this does not guarantee a relationship. The spouse can walk away, in which case there will be no relationship. The spouse walking away does not prove that the other did not love unconditionally. I believe that John 14:21 is describing a relationship of love. If we refuse to obey God, then we are choosing not to have a relationship with him. In which case he will not “love us” (ie. show his love). The fact that we can destroy our relationship with God through our sin does not imply that his love is conditional. What is “conditional” is our salvation, not God’s love.