For God so loved the world… (John 3:16)

The problem with unconditional love is the tendency to take it for granted.

If I have to behave a certain way or do certain things to deserve the love I receive, I will undoubtedly try harder to please the one who loves me. But the absence of such requirements seems to disconnect unconditional love from any reciprocal or behavioral expectations.

For example, it is natural for a father to love his children. He demonstrates his love by nurturing, providing, protecting, and sheltering them, even granting their reasonable requests. However, if he constantly rushes to their aid, bailing them out of every circumstance, resolving all their conflicts, and handling every situation for them, two dynamics occur. First, the father’s unconditional response enables the children’s ongoing poor behavior. Secondly, the children’s exploitation of their father’s unconditional response hinders their positive character development.

This is where consequence enters the picture. Consequence—both rewards and punishment—must be part of unconditional love. Truly loving his children, a prudent father allows them to experience the consequences of their behavior and choices by way of the “if’s” and “then’s” of life. If they behave, obey, and choose wisely, then he rewards them. But if they misbehave, disobey, and make poor decisions, then he lovingly disciplines either through punishment or withholding rewards.

This concept may seem blunt and harsh, yet God interacts with us the same way. When we obey Him, He blesses; when we disobey, He disciplines.

Oh, we revel in God’s unconditional love; yet we often overlook His unchanging holiness. We often overlook the fact that His love is unconditional because of who He is. Yes, He is, and will always be, love—in Him there is “no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17, KJV). Yet, He is also, and will always be, holy—“I am the Lord, I do not change” (Malachi 3:6, NKJV). He is “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8, NKJV).

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