A Short Word Of Introduction. I preached the following message some years ago as a pastor with a heart burdened by the sad state of hatred, alienation, and broken relationships within the local church. Many of the things said here apply equally to marriage and family where, most tragically of all, conditional love is found. If you love conditionally, I pray that these blog posts will help you end the cycle of animosity and alienation that’s found wherever conditional love is practiced. God has a better way of loving. These posts are a tiny peek into the kind of love God wants us to have for all mankind.


What is conditional love? It is loving with strings attached. It is making your love for someone dependent on their meeting several factors, conditions, or prerequisites—most of which have to do with a desire on your part to control them. For example, you’ll love them—

  • if they do what you want them to do.
  • if they live the way you want them to live.
  • if they believe what you want them to believe.
  • if they behave the way you want them to behave.
  • if they dress the way you want them to dress.
  • if they get good grades in school.
  • if they make the athletic team.
  • if they quit sinning and get right with the Lord.
  • if they go to the same church you go to.
  • if they don’t say anything bad about you.
  • if they treat you nicely.
  • if they do good things for you.
  • if they pay attention to you and cater to you.
  • if they love you in return. And the such like.

Conditional love, in short, is loving someone only after they’ve met the conditions you’ve set for them. Said another way, in order for people to be loved by you they’ve got to earn your love. How do they earn it? By submitting themselves to your control.

For too many of us, conditional love is the only love we know. It’s the only way we know to love. Yet, it’s wrong. It’s not the way we’re supposed to love one another. Let me tell you what I mean.      


1. IT’S NOT THE RIGHT KIND OF LOVE.  There are several things wrong with conditional love. The first of these is, it’s not the kind of love that God wants us to have. You see, there are several different kinds of love. But not all loves are the same.

Prior to the time of Christ, when Greece ruled much of the then-known world, there were three main words for love in the lingua franca of the Greco-Roman world.

  • There is a love between members of the opposite sex that is sensual, sexual, and erotic. It is a love that seeks gratification of mankind’s innate need for sexual satisfaction and emotional, or romantic, acceptance. In the Greek, this love is called éros.
  • There is a love that parents have for their children and that children have for their parents. It’s a love that members of a family have for one another. In the Greek, this love is called stórge.
  • Then there is a love that friends have for one another. It can be a love between members of the same sex or members of the opposite sex. It’s not  a sexual kind of love, but simply a love that enjoys the friendship and company of a friend. In the Greek, this love is called philía.

Now when God commanded us to love one another He used a different word for love. And that word was agápe. It was a word that the Greeks just didn’t use very much.  Its  meaning  was somewhat nebulous. In one instance, it meant to be satisfied with something; in another, to seek after; and yet in another, to prefer or esteem one person more highly than another. Sometimes the word was used in the sense of greeting or receiving a person. At other times, however, it meant sympathy. As if these were not enough, agápe was also used to speak of friendship between equals.  So, as you can see, the Greeks weren’t too settled on the exact meaning of agápe and it’s probably the reason why they just didn’t use the word very much.

Now when Jesus came along, He introduced a whole new meaning to this word. In light of His teachings and the example of love that He set for us, agápe has come to mean sovereign, unmerited, unconditional love.

When God commanded us to love one another, He commanded us to love one another the same way He loves us. John 15:12 reads, This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. In other words, we’re not supposed to love one another the way many of us have heretofore been loving one another. We’re not supposed to love one another conditionally, with strings attached. Brethren, God wants us to love His people without them having to earn, merit, or deserve our  love.  God’s  love for us is sovereign, unmerited, unearned, undeserved, and unconditional. He wants our love for one another to be the same way. God wants us to love each other unconditionally with no strings attached. None whatsoever.

There are, as I’ve said, different kinds of love. But not all loves are the same. And this is where a lot of us make our mistake. Just because we love someone, howbeit conditionally, we feel like we’ve fulfilled our Christian duty to love. We’re obeying God!  But that’s just the problem. IF WE LOVE ONE ANOTHER CONDITIONALLY, THEN WE’VE GOT THE WRONG KIND OF LOVE! AND EVEN THOUGH WE LOVE ONE ANOTHER TO SOME EXTENT, WE’RE STILL NOT LOVING ONE ANOTHER THE WAY GOD WANTS US TO LOVE. WE STILL HAVEN’T LIVED UP TO, OR OBEYED, CHRIST’S COMMAND TO AGÁPE LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

  • THE LOVE THAT GOD WANTS US TO HAVE IS NOT BASED ON HUMAN EMOTION. Rather, it’s based on an act of our will. We choose to love regardless of feelings. Agápe love, brethren, isn’t a feeling. So much of human love involves feeling; it’s an emotion. But agápe love isn’t a feeling primarily. It has feeling, of course. But first and foremost, AGÁPE IS AN ACT OF THE WILL, IT’S A DELIBERATE DECISION ON YOUR PART TO LOVE YOUR BRETHREN NO MATTER WHAT.
  • THE LOVE THAT GOD WANTS US TO HAVE IS NOT BASED ON CIRCUMSTANCES. Our love is conditional. It’s dependent on how people behave. People change. And when they change for the worse, i.e. when they quit being nice to us; we quit loving them. But God doesn’t want us loving one another this way. He wants us to love each other unconditionally. Brethren, it’s possible to love people and to keep on loving them in spite of what they believe, how they live, how they behave, or how they treat us.
  • THE LOVE THAT GOD WANTS US TO HAVE IS NOT TO BE SHORT-LIVED OR COME TO AN END.  We’re not supposed to quit loving one another.  This leads me to the second problem with conditional love.

Coming Up On My Next Blog Post, Part 2. A continuing look at what’s wrong with conditional love. Drop by for a visit next week and, together, let’s put an end to the cycle of heartache, hatred and alienation.

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