Unbalanced: The Dangers of Unconditional Love

Unbalanced: The Dangers of Unconditional Love February 14, 2019

 

Anytime we speak about the extravagant and unending love of God for people, we must always remind ourselves – and one another – just how sinful and undeserving we are of such amazing love.

The danger, of course, is that we might fixate too much on God’s audacious love and not spend enough time meditating on our own worthlessness.

Several authors are guilty of this. For example, people like Philip Yancey, and Brennan Manning tend to go on and on about God’s great love for us, and even seem to emphasize our full acceptance of this love, without balancing these ideas with the truth [which is that we are slimy worms who could never deserve such unmerited grace and love].

For example, here’s what Yancey says about God’s grace:

“God loves people because of who God is, not because of who we are.” 

“I would far rather convey grace than explain it.” 

Notice how he makes no mention of our sins? Hmm…

Now, look at what Manning says:

“God loves you exactly as you are, not as you should be, because none of us will ever be as we should be.”

Ok, he does mention our sins but he fails to emphasize how our sinfulness is repulsive to God and how our failures can be a barrier to God’s great love.

As bad as these may be, the worst offender of all is this guy Paul, the Apostle.

Notice what he says about God’s great love:

“I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power…to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” [Eph. 3:17-19]

Worse yet, Paul doesn’t follow up this thought about God’s awesome love with any verses about how much we don’t deserve that love. Shameful.

And it gets worse:

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For 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.” [Romans 8:35-39]

Here, Paul not only goes on and on about God’s miraculous and astounding love for us, he even tries to convince us that nothing can separate us from this great love. Really, Paul? Not even our slimy, undeserving sinfulness?

In another epistle, Paul drops casual references to God’s love for us and uses it as motivation for how we should love one another:

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” [Col. 3:12]

Of course, Paul even went so far as to write an entire chapter about love [see 1 Cor. 13] without ever mentioning how much none of us deserves God’s great love. Talk about a missed opportunity.

The other Apostles are no better. John, for example, who has the gall to call himself “the one the Lord loved” also talks about God’s love for us without the necessary caveats:

“God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.” [1 John 4:16]

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! [1 John 3:1]

Again, all references to how much we don’t deserve God’s great love are “conveniently” omitted.

The dangerous thing here is that Christians who read this might actually start to forget their filthy sinfulness and begin to focus only on the goodness, and kindness, and graciousness of a God who loves them so much that He would rather die than live without them.

Just imagine what would happen if more and more Christians started to forget what horrible people they are? Sure, they might start to experience more joy in their lives, but they might also start to forget what shame and guilt feel like.

And then what?

The more Christians start to become aware of God’s unmerited favor and His love that surpasses knowledge, the more they might also start telling others about it, too.

Do we really want to live in a world where the emphasis is on God’s continual, unending love for those who are made in His image? Are we prepared for the consequences of this unbalanced approach to the Gospel, or to life itself?

The implications are almost unbelievable.

Almost.

**

Keith Giles was formerly a licensed and ordained minister who walked away from organized church 11 years ago, to start a home fellowship that gave away 100% of the offering to the poor in the community. Today, He and his wife live in Meridian, Idaho, awaiting their next adventure.

His new book “Jesus Unbound: Liberating the Word of God from the Bible”, is available now on Amazon and features a Foreword by author Brian Zahnd.

He is also the author of the Amazon best-seller, “Jesus Untangled: Crucifying Our Politics To Pledge Allegiance To The Lamb” with a Foreword by Greg Boyd.

Keith also co-hosts the Heretic Happy Hour Podcast on iTunes and Podbean. 

BONUS: Want to unlock exclusive content including blog articles, short stories, music, podcasts, videos and more? Visit my Patreon page.

 

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Oscar Scott Oliver

    I agree with your sentiment and spirit of what you said. Cheap grace is being preached instead of costly grace. For some of us we have heard hell, fire and brimstone so often, that God’s unmerited love is a cup of cool water. Paul does deal with sin and you have left those passages out. People quote Jesus, “Judge not lest you be judged.” Most people don’t realize that Greek and Hebrew have no punctuation. To paraphrase Jesus, “Judge not lest you be judged, for the merciless judgment you give will be the standard of judgment that God will use to judge you by.” Paul also talks about a purging of fire as our entryway into God’s presence (1 Cor. 3:15). Then there is a Calvin’s teachinf of the eternal security of salvation. What is NOT KNOWN is that Calvin never believed that anyone could know they were saved until the end of ages when the Book of Life is opened up. It is Theodore Beza who jettisoned that understanding.

  • Dred37

    Slimy worm? But the scripture says clearly that we are created in God’s image. God is no slimy worm. Yes there is the problem of sin but in its discussions of sin the Bible never takes away the dignity or image of the sinner. Jesus did not tell the woman caught in adultery that she was a slimy anything. God’s live is amazing and undeserved but he never…never…takes his love away from us and calls us nasty names. You are seriously off base here!

  • Mirror

    Adventures in selective reading?
    Read the book of James – then maybe we can talk.

  • Karin Isbell

    You talk utter nonsense, in the process twisting e.g. Paul’s words out of proportion. My suggestion: Clean your own cage & repent prior to misjudging!

  • Mary Jane Oliveri

    Surprising article for Patheos website. I’ve said enough!

  • Will Hunsucker

    Excellent. As evidenced by the comments… plenty of folks are not used to dry humour/satire done so well.

    “Do we really want to live in a world where the emphasis is on God’s continual, unending love for those who are made in His image? Are we prepared for the consequences of this unbalanced approach to the Gospel, or to life itself?”

    Just imagine the awful consequences of those who call themselves Christ-followers being known for extravagant grace and unconditional love. Just imagine.

  • Chari McCauley

    And, every time they recite “forgive us, as we forgive” from The Lord’s Prayer…

  • Oscar Scott Oliver

    It seems we forget that confession of sin is incomplete without turning around from sin (i.e. repentance)!

  • AntithiChrist

    I personally won’t hang out with filthy, slimy, disgusting, self-loathers, which most people aren’t, thank goodness, so you can speak for yourself on that score, and thanks for the heads up.

    But you do seem to have a pretty solid handle on the common misapprehension regarding the Christian god’s “I love ya no matter what” theology.

    Unconditional love isn’t possible when the Prime Lover, in this case the ever-loving three-way we call Jehovah, Jesus, and that ghost critter, promise eternal torture sessions for anyone who doesn’t return that love.

    More simply put, “I love you so much, but if you don’t love me back, I’ll torture you forever” is not unconditional love. It is highly conditional. So nice work sorting everything out to that extent.

    Now you can move on to asking the next obvious question:

    “Why would anyone love, let alone worship, such a toxic, malevolent putz?!”

  • Nimblewill

    Its utter nonsense that we have to be taught how bad we are. I know it and have for a long, long time. What I had to learn was that God loved me. Think of all the verses about God’s love that you have never been preached in the churches you attended.

    Like this one…………….
    …In this way, love has been perfected among us, so that we may have confidence on the day of judgment; for in this world we are just like Him. There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. The one who fears has not been perfected in love. We love because He first loved us.…

  • Robert Conner

    Unconditional love, huh?

    Two Boeing 737 Max 8’s have crashed and countries around the globe are closing their airspace to this model. The Roman Catholic Church has spent something on the order of $4 billion settling civil suits for sexual molestation of minors, tens of thousands of credible accusations of sexual abuse have been lodged against thousands of priests, a cardinal has been defrocked–Heaven forfend!!–for covering up sex crimes, and the Catholic Church continues to operate schools, orphanages, adoption agencies and healthcare facilities around the planet. If we demanded the same safety standards of churches that we expect from airplanes, the Church would have been grounded decades ago.

    Are the Protestant churches much better? I seriously doubt it. Let’s just say I look forward to the day we stop treating religious organizations like Saudi princes, Michael Jackson, and scofflaw billionaires and start applying some real accountability. So far these outfits are getting unconditional love.

  • DuckyShades

    You can thank Martin Luther and Calvin…and of course their posterity who, if they’re honest, hold their writings in higher regard than the bible itself. The great irony is that if you bring this to an evangelical, or worse a calvinist of which I used to be, you’ll have them arguing for deep meditations on our sinful nature.

    Brain studies today show how, for whatever reason, our brain physiology immediately accepts, embraces, and internalizes negative thoughts and feelings with zero resistance. Like a fly to a flytrap. Whereas, positive uplifting thoughts and feelings take immense repetition.

    You think God gave us that kind of biology to then have us endlessly (but faithfully) reinforce such morbid, macab psychology? The one where you muse your failings that you’ve learned to spot and FEEL in every atom of your being, before getting to the grace part? One helluva cosmic joke if you ask me. But, it is fitting and least consistent with the story that humans are born inherently sinful, babes destined for eternal hellfire. (Though, no one seems to agree at what age humans become eternally accountable for their own personal fire insurance.)

    Hey – the real faithful among us know we’re meant to suffer and accept our lot as such, lest we arrogantly encrouch the mysteries that belong to God alone. Stand down, Christian. As modern day Puritan John Piper himself says — we crawl to the gates of heaven.

    Laughable.