|Flower, in Tawas City, Michigan|
I was talking with someone who has lived all his life under the oppression of conditional love. Conditional love is love that has "conditions" that must be met if "love" is extended.
In logic, a "conditional statement" (also called a "hypothetical statement") is an "If... then" statement. Like: "If it rains, then the ground gets wet." Which means: on the condition that it is raining, then the ground will get wet.
Conditional love is hypothetical, "If... then" love. This disqualifies it as love. It is hypothetical, and love is actual. Like: "If you have sex with me, then I will love you." Or: "If you give me that money I asked for, then I will act lovingly towards you." Or: "If you do not have sex with me, then I will not love you." It's all the same thing. It's all hypothetical, not real, love.
My friend grew up in a world of hypothetical love, with a father who said this: "Son, if you perform for me, if you do just what I want you to do, if you measure up to my expectations, if... if... if..., then I sure am proud of you and I sure do love you."
Hypothetical-conditional love treats others like trained seals in a circus act. "If you jump through the ring of fire, then I'll give you a fish." But only "if."
Hypothetical-conditional love asks the beloved to make a sacrifice for one's own pleasure. My friend has a hard time thinking that love means anything other than this. He inwardly punishes himself daily, interpreting true selfless love as self-serving, "If... then" love.
The New Testament word for love, agape, takes the "if" out. Agape love is non-hypothetical, but actual. Which means: no conditions need be satisfied in order to receive love.
Agape love as non-hypothetical is propositional love. In logic a "proposition" is a technical term which refers to a statement that is either true or false, describing a state of affairs that obtains. Agape love does not say "If... then," but simply "I love you." Propositional-agape love sacrifices selflessly for the beloved. That is God-love.
It's God-love because God, whose essence is love, cannot not-love. One cannot thereby say "If God loves me," but must stand in awe before the state of affairs "That God loves me." God's love doesn't wait for conditions to be fulfilled.
Hypothetical-conditional love is abusive since it dangles a fish before the hungry animal and says, "Perform for me." Propositional-agape love says, "Forget the performance, take off the costume and makeup, and get used to the truth that God loves you."
When God-love dwells in us we love others unconditionally.
Our love for them is not hypothetical, but true, constant, abiding, selfless, sacrificial, and never-failing.
My two books are:
Leading the Presence-Driven Church
Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.
I'm currently writing...
Technology and Spiritual Formation