We love the “if/then” proposition: “If” you do this, “then” I will do that. We love living as though the philosophy of “what goes around comes around” is true. That conditionality makes us feel safe. It’s easy to comprehend, and appropriately formulaic. Best of all, it keeps us in control. We get to keep our ledgers and scorecards. The equation: “If I do this, then you are obligated to do that” makes perfect sense to our grace-empty hearts.
Unconditional love, on the other hand, is incomprehensible. We are deeply conditioned against unconditionality because we’ve been told in a thousand different ways that accomplishment always precedes acceptance, that achievement always precedes approval.
So when we hear, “Of course you don’t deserve it, but I’m giving it to you anyway,” we wonder, “What is this really about? What’s the catch?” Internal alarms start going off, and we begin saying “wait a minute…this sounds too good to be true.”
You see, everything in our world demands two-way love. Everything is conditional. Only when we achieve, we reason, will we receive everything we long for: love, approval, significance, respect, and so on. Be good, bring home the bacon, and keep your act together so then (and only then) will you have what you want. That’s how our world works.
However, God gives us His love without any conditions and without any merit on our part: “We love Him, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19
You see, grace isn’t from our world. It’s otherworldly. It’s unconditional. Grace is upside-down, to-do-list wrecking, and incomprehensible. It’s unconditional love, and this grace is given by an unconditional God, who has set His redeeming love in place and desires to see it appropriated in our lives.
Won’t this unconditional love produce unthankful, unholy Christians you ask? The opposite is true. God’s grace produces, within the heart of His children, the desire to live a life dedicated to His glory.
For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;—Titus 2:11–12