To better understand just how insidious unconditional love is, we must closely study the meaning of conditional–with all its synonyms. When applying adjectives to modify the definition of a noun such as “love” we need to understand the changes in relationship effected by the modification.
It is possible to actually force a completely opposite meaning onto a noun. During this past election cycle while listening to the radio, I heard a political analyst describe one politic hopeful as “extremely moderate.” Such a depiction is of course laughable. After all, couldn’t an extremely moderate candidate just as accurately be described as a “conservative liberal”?
When we look at the love of God as revealed in the Bible, no where do we find any real evidence that it is unconditional, although Scriptures may be misinterpreted and misapplied to appear to support the notion. Pondering the applications of synonyms to conditional (having conditions), we might then better understand how unconditional (having no conditions)–as an antonym–actually makes love to mean something altogether opposite of what is should mean.
In one definition of condition, we begin to see how love might depend on “something upon which the carrying out of an agreement or offer depends <you’ll get a bonus with the condition that we meet our sales forecast>Synonyms contingency, if, provision, proviso, qualification, reservation, stipulation. Related Words strings, terms; precondition, prerequisite, requirement, requisite; limitation, modification, restriction; exception, exemption; demand, essential, must, necessity, need” (Merriam-Webster Thesaurus, emphasis added.) Does the Bible declare love to be qualified or stipulated?
Jesus taught His disciples, and, by extension, us that God’s love manifests itself first. However, it’s continuance is qualified, or stipulated upon our response to love. “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.” KJV, John 14:20, emphasis added.
He makes this teaching even clearer as He continues on with our instruction. “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.” KJV, 15:9, 10, emphasis added.
Even in Spirit of Prophecy we see how God’s infinite love is limited by a hatred for sin. “God sees every heart and knows the excuses suggested by Satan by which he seeks to ensnare every soul. He fully appreciates our danger, while we do not. He is not willing that any should perish in sin; but that all should repent and live. Hence, the oft repeated plea that we should not be deceived and lost. God is love; and infinite love will devise infinite plans and plead with infinitely long-suffering to save the lost. There is one thing, however, which infinite love cannot do; it cannot requite the unrepentant wicked.” (Ellen White, Bible Training School, November 1, 1911, emphasis added.)
We also see that God’s love is immeasurable, but only to the repentant sinners. “He who sees the guilt of his transgression, and understands the infinite sacrifice made in his behalf, will not continue in sin. But if men continue to resist light and evidence, they will cut themselves off from God’s mercy, and then will come the ministry of wrath. God can not save the sinner in his sin. The love of God is immeasurable to those who repent, but His justice is firm and uncompromising to those who abuse his long-suffering love.” (Ellen White, Signs of the Times, November 15, 1899, emphasis added.)