Unconditional Love Doesn’t Always Include Unconditional Acceptance
by Pastor Dan Delzell
“If God really loves me, then He should accept me just the way I am….no matter how I choose to live. After all, everyone is a sinner.” Maybe you have heard someone express that sentiment, or perhaps even felt that way yourself. Let’s think about that theory.
First of all, why should God’s acceptance of our behavior be unconditional….while our acceptance of the behavior of our loved ones is conditional? For instance, look at all the parents who love their children unconditionally….but who do not approve of all of their behaviors. And what about all the wives and husbands who love their spouse dearly, and unconditionally, but who do not approve of certain behaviors of their spouse. Some behaviors actually jeopardize the marriage relationship. We don’t question the love of those parents….or those spouses. Then why is it so easy for people to question God’s unconditional love?
Our problem as sinners is that we tend to think we should be able to do whatever we feel like doing. In that sense, we are like little children. We don’t always understand what is best for us….and we question whether God truly knows what is best for us. If His Word forbids something I feel like doing, then the problem must be with God’s Word, right? At least that is what popular thought tends to say. “It can’t be us. It can’t be me. I am always right….right?”
Try and find one example in the New Testament where Jesus ever suggested that it doesn’t matter how people live….and where he offered unconditional acceptance of anyone’s behavior because of His love for them. He didn’t “love” that way….because He would have had to contradict Himself, as well as His Father, in order to do it. He would have had to go against the truth “in the name of love.” He never did such a thing. In fact, it can’t be done….not by the Lord….and not by us.
Oh we try and do it sometimes. We hear folks talk about “accepting people for who they are.” What they really mean is that “unconditional love should include unconditional acceptance.” That is their theory….and their approach to life. It sounds extremely tolerant….and loving….until you analyze it bit. Then you realize that it doesn’t work. In the end, it allows everyone to do whatever he thinks is best for him….regardless of whether or not God has an issue with it. “Well that’s God’s problem then….or those Christians….it’s their problem….but don’t make it my problem.”
If we wrongly assume that we are the starting point….rather than God….then we end up having everything revolve around man’s ideas, and opinions, and preferences. If on the other hand, we begin with God….then we begin at the correct point of “right and wrong.” God is always right. His decrees are always right. Any violation of His decrees are always wrong. Man’s feelings about God’s decrees are way down the list in terms of importance. It’s not that God doesn’t care about our feelings on the matter….but it’s just that they don’t matter one iota in terms of changing right and wrong. And that’s not God’s problem….that is our problem….and our mindset….and our confusion which flows out of the poisoned well of moral relativism and secular humanism.
Moral relativism demonstrates a disgust with God’s Word and His boundaries. It is an “in your face” assault against the notion of “right and wrong.” After all, who are Christians to be able to define right and wrong….even if they are using their so-called holy book. Man, by nature, hates being told what to do. He always has….and he always will. The “he,” by the way, is you….and me.
Without a new heart from the Lord, we would never want to do His will. Even with this new heart, we still struggle with the old desires of the flesh. Boy do we ever need God’s love….and acceptance….and forgiveness. But it definitely doesn’t come easy to us, especially when we are intent on hanging on to control.
Not only that….but we also tend to define “love” wrong. Again, we start with man….and assume that “true love” accepts almost any behavior that seems to be the preference of anyone or any group of people. If we start with God, we see that love is really about Him. “God is love.” (1 John 4:8) God sent His Son to save us from our sin because He loves us. He loves sinners. He loves us for who we are….not for what we have done. We did nothing to earn His love, but He loves us still the same. That is unconditional love. But that does not mean that He accepts all of our preferences….and our choices….and all of our wants and desires.
He is God….and we are not. He invites people to enter His family on His terms….not our terms. By “terms,” I am talking about repentance (turning from sin) and faith in Jesus Christ. (see Mark 1:15) Those are His “terms.” Try and find one place in the New Testament where Jesus ever invited people to come to Him without any terms….and with any attitudes they wanted to embrace….and with any behavior they felt like continuing to pursue. You won’t find that “Jesus” in the New Testament, because the real Jesus always has terms that go along with His unconditional love.
If He didn’t, He would end up accepting those into His family who plan to deliberately commit more evil acts. Now does that sound like a family that God would be interested in calling His own?
So at the end of the day, God is the only Person who is qualified to define “good” and “evil.” Any other definitions are just man’s attempts at trying to make unconditional love always include unconditional acceptance. Man is a pro at that sort of thing. It just comes naturally to us. We want our own way because we assume the world revolves around us. In a nutshell, we’ve all got issues.
Thankfully, God still reaches out to us. God loves everyone, but He does not accept everyone. Those who want to tell God how they plan to live are those who will remain outside His family until they come to terms with the difference between God’s unconditional love….and His conditional acceptance. You don’t have to have your life in order for God to accept you….but you do need to have a willing heart that is ready to pursue those things He calls “good,” and a willingness to flee from those things He calls “evil.” Without that willingness and that desire, why would anyone even want to have a personal relationship with God?
Imagine a husband or wife on their wedding day saying, “I do,” but….”there are several others I plan to marry as well later today.” Huh? Hello? Really? That’s ludicrous….but that is exactly what many of us would attempt to say to God if His unconditional love required unconditional acceptance. “Yea sure, Lord. I want you in my life….that is, as one of many gods I plan to serve and follow.” Boy, wouldn’t that just warm God’s heart to hear that kind of attitude coming from man? And just imagine if God did accept someone with that attitude into His family.
You could end up with a Satanist claiming to be in God’s family. Come to think of it….I suppose they do make that sort of claim. Unfortunately for them, their god already lost to the true God at the cross. (see Colossians 2:15) Satanist or not, anyone can come to Jesus on God’s terms….and receive God’s unconditional love. No human being is beyond His love….but many refuse to submit to the terms Jesus gave us regarding God’s acceptance of sinners. Whenever man seeks to rewrite the terms of God’s offer of salvation, he ends up with “a progressive understanding of the Bible” that is not compatible with biblical Christianity.
So are you ready to reject the lie of moral relativism….and learn the truth about God’s love and acceptance? Right now you may be very close to entering the light….and receiving the unconditional love of God and the free gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. That is, if you are able to reconcile God’s unconditional love with His conditional acceptance of sinners. The world really does revolve around Him….and His Word….and not you and me. That’s a good thing, wouldn’t you say?