Friday, August 24, 2012

Unconditional (Again)

I am bone weary of the old line, "Scripture never says God's love is unconditional."  First of all, I'm not sure there was koine Greek word that was an exact match for "unconditional."  But it's written all over Scripture in the large letters of God's behavior and heart, even if it's not in the fine print.  Today, someone quoted Hosea 9:15 in defense of the conditional love of God:

All their evil is at Gilgal; Indeed, I came to hate them there! Because of the wickedness of their deeds I will drive them out of My house! I will love them no more; All their princes are rebels. (Hos 9:15 NAU)

Pretty convincing right?  But for God's sake, look at the BIG picture.  God told Hosea to take a prostitute for a wife - A PROSTITUTE! - as an example of his love for his people.  It can't get much clearer than this,

Then the LORD said to me, "Go again, love a woman who is loved by her husband, yet an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the sons of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love raisin cakes." (Hos 3:1 NAU)  

God loves his children in complete and utter faithlessness.  God's final word in Hosea 9, "Return to me, my anger has passed, I am going to bless you and keep you in my love."  And HOSEA is supposed to be a good example of God's conditional love?  I don't think so.  But to dispense with all this, let me just quote my response to this person:

You're right that scripture doesn't use the word "unconditional." That is a true statement. And yet...
Of the (arguably) four Greek words for love (storge, phileo, eros, agape), "agape" does in fact include the meaning of selfless, unconditional love (as that of parent to child). Of course, if you want to get into the semantics of "unconditional," that's a different matter. Obviously parent-child love requires the condition of a parent-child relationship. But that relationship is generally assumed by people who are talking about God loving his "children" or creation unconditionally.
Secondly, unconditional love is EXEMPLIFIED in the New Testament (and particularly the gospels) over and over again. The stoning of the adulterous woman in John 8 (setting aside the questionable pedigree of that passage), the woman at the well, the healing of the man let down through the roof by his friends, the thief on the cross.
I could go on, but "unconditional love" is most clearly demonstrated in the cross and in Jesus' own words, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do." My friend, it doesn't get any more unconditional than that. Jesus demonstrates the very love he taught his disciples (Mat 5:43-48), "love your enemies." Why? Jesus answers, "so that you may be sons of your Father in Heaven." So you can be like God, like your Daddy, who loves his enemies too. "Be perfect [complete, whole]," says Jesus referring directly to that unconditional loving nature, "as your Father in Heaven is perfect."
And this we know, we interpret the Old Testament by the New. JESUS is our hermeneutical key and the cross is our chief interpretive principal. If there appears to be a conflict between Hosea and Jesus, go with Jesus any day of the week.

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