Contraconditional

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.

More Than Conquerors

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Photo taken from AMAZING ANIMAL FACTS by Christopher Maynard, 1993, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. (Illustrations copyright 1993 Dorling Kindersley)

I have always loved the analogy that Rose Marie Miller gives in her book FROM FEAR TO FREEDOM about a caterpillar in a ring of fire. More about that later…

While the boundaries for venturing out are getting tighter and tighter, I am asking myself what, if anything, can be the silver lining in a pandemic crisis like Covid-19? I once went to see a movie with my husband called CONTAGION. Only minutes into this movie, which I wouldn’t have chosen but was being a “good sport” to go see, a real emergency happened. A member of the audience was having a life threatening episode which required the call to emergency personnel and a shut down of the movie. We did not discover if he was resuscitated or not. Yet, I am personally glad that I didn’t get a technicolor and surround sound movie experience of what a true pandemic could look like. My BP returned to normal and we went on with our day.

One thing about being cooped up now is having time to think. In my case, it’s having the time to do things that were on my back burner wish list – quilting, reading, and writing…

Romans 8:35-39 says, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him Who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

So, back to the caterpillar. The picture. If a caterpillar is stuck in the center of a ring of fire (just imagine), there is literally no way out. Unless. Someone pulls it out. Straight up. Out of harm’s way. When we are crawling around in the center of the flames, wondering what to do, we must look up instead of outward. We must reach heavenward instead of earthward. We can’t poke our way out. We will get singed. We must remind ourselves that the only Hand that pulls us out is Jesus.

Conquering faith is how we avoid the heat. Facts can be helpful. But, facts do not save us. Jesus saves. Just a reminder. We are more than conquerors.