Unconditional love – Conditional acceptance
The fairy tales portray the stepmother as a harsh task master. Bent on control, she demands strict obedience and threatens dire consequences if the true daughter of the house steps out of line. She cares little for the cinder-child’s feelings and needs. Not much love, there. The step-daughter, with fading memories of a father’s love, struggles on, helped by various well-wishers until her prince rescues her and whisks her off to a happy-ever-after life. One reason these stories survive and resonate so strongly in our hearts is the universal longing for unconditional love bound up in ever human heart
Scripture provides clear evidence that our Father God is the source of all blessings. Often, though, it seems that His blessings come with ‘strings attached.’ For instance, read Leviticus, chapter 26, for a vivid portrayal of a God Who rewards obedience with blessing and stubborn disobedience with punishment!
Only a few in the Old Testament story seemed to experience intimacy with God, the kind of relationship based on loving acceptance, flaws and all. Still many assurances of God’s unconditional love come in this part of the Bible. For example, “The Lord is faithful to all His promises – loving towards all He has made.” Ps. 145:13
The New Testament presents a softer picture of God. “…for God is love. To us, the greatest demonstration of God’s love for us has been His sending His only Son into the world to give us life through Him. We see real love, not in the fact that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to make personal atonement for our sins. If God loved us as much as that, surely we, in our turn, should love each other!” I John 4:8-11, Phillips
As challenging as it is to balance the two portraits of our Father God, I think that, in doing so, we arm ourselves with the courage and wisdom to pass this on, however imperfectly, to our own children. We can hold on to a clear conviction that our heavenly Parent never stops loving us, even when He allows us to sow what we reap, to experience undeserved pain, grief and bewilderment. Deliberately passing this along to our children can, in turn, help them develop the same assurance about us and about our Heavenly Father.
A final thought: We can take to heart that God’s unconditional love is a gift He offers every human being. When we refer to His response to a person’s misbehavior as ‘conditional love’ we might, rather, call it something else. Not conditional love, but ‘conditional acceptance.’
Believing that God’s conditional acceptance is amazingly intertwined with His unconditional love helps us understand Scripture and is vital to our success as parents.
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