What kind of love is this? Romans 8:38-39 says, “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (NKJV)
For a long time I have equated unconditional love with “agape” love, the Greco-Christian term meaning “the highest form of love, charity.” But, that God might care about me too much to love me just unconditionally is a new thought. I recently discovered in the writings of Dr. David Powlison a more complete concept – “contraconditional” love, closer to “high” agape.
Whereas unconditional love sends a message of detachment with no direct personal involvement, contraconditional love is a love that personally suffered for me, that went to the Cross for me, that conquered the jaws of sin and death for me. It rises much higher. Whereas unconditional love is said to be tolerant and accepting no matter what, contraconditional love is merciful and won’t ignore the cries of my heart for much more than toleration and acceptance.
God’s love is far more than a vehicle for “feeling good about myself” or being unchallenged in any way by manipulations, demands or judgments that are characteristic of conditional love. The contraconditional love of God goes way beyond taking me just as I am, and moves to making me new.
Turns out, there IS a condition – the condition of dependence upon what Jesus alone accomplished by God’s initiative, and not on what the recipients of God’s great love accomplished for themselves. The loving-kindness of God is the gift of unearned grace that is offered through the work of Jesus coming into the world to save sinners. This love is not a blanket approval of sinners like me. Instead, it is a passionate act of sacrificial love offered freely to those who would receive the gift in faith.
In educational circles, we often hear much about the needs of learners to possess self-esteem and unconditional positive regard. But, God’s contraconditional love won’t leave you alone with that flat, lifeless idea – being simply affirmed or indulged. God is very patient. His love seeks to change you, renew you, restore you, rebuild you. He seeks to lead you to repentance. God’s heart’s desire is to reconcile you to Himself through a Savior. God intends the end result to be transforming you into the image of Jesus so that you can share that same contraconditional love of God with others.
Acts 20:32 says, “So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” (NJKV)
What kind of love is contraconditional? John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
I don’t want acceptance. I want an inheritance.