The differences in motherly love versus fatherly love become quit clear if one digs into the nature of each. A mother’s love for her baby begins as one of an unconditional nature; she must love her offspring regardless, because without that unconditional love her offspring cannot survive. This unconditional love continues all through the childhood years, and more often than not a mother’s love remains unconditional for a lifetime. Motherly love is unconditional, it is the love given to a child with no expectations; it is not earned, and requires no work. Nothing is done to deserve this love; it is given merely because the child exists. The child is loved because he is, “I am loved because I am”

 

Fatherly love on the other hand is many times based on a “conditional” love that must be deserved, it can be lost if one does not do what is expected. In the nature of fatherly love lies the fact that obedience becomes the main virtue and disobedience the main sin…its punishment the withdrawal of fatherly love. Since this love is conditional the child can do something to earn it, acquire it, or work for it. Its principle is “I love you because you fulfill my expectations” it says, “You did wrong and you must change your ways if you want me to like you.” The child is loved because he has earned it. This conditional love is the type of love one finds in the male god Yahweh, who is portrayed as, and called Father in Scripture. Jesus says of his father in John 12:26If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour”, showing the conditional aspect of earning God’s love.

 

Throughout the Bible one finds that God’s love is based on the condition of obedience, starting in the Garden of Eden and ending with the Salvation story. The earning of love through obedience is very clear in the story of Adam and Eve and their punishment is the withdrawal of god’s presence and banishment from the garden. Most who are familiar with Christian theology readily accept the principle of conditional love as applied in the Garden story; it is only when applied in the New Testament that the waters get a bit murky. Most Christians who think of God’s love in the New Testament do so in terms of it being unconditional, by quoting verses like John 3:16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” which on the surface seems to be unconditional in the sense that God’s love applies to everyone, but…does it really? Upon closer inspection the answer is no. The subtle condition that is smuggled in without notice is that of belief. Only those who “believe” in God are granted everlasting life, so the condition of receiving his love is belief in him…otherwise you will be punished with denial of eternal life. Anytime a requirement is given, the term unconditional cannot be legitimately used, because a condition must be met before the offer will be given. Another verse that reveals the type of conditional love that God has is in John 10:17Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.” Here Jesus tells us the reasons why his father loves him, it is because he was obedient in laying down his life, this is the type of conditional love that we see manifest over and over again in Scripture. Which leads me to another point…

 

John 12:25 He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.

 

One can only love another to the extent that one loves themselves, never can it be more. This holds true for loving God, one can only love God to the extent that they love themselves, so if a person cannot love his own life and retain eternal life, how could one possibly love God? One can only love God if one can love themselves. Even the greatest commandment of loving God seems to be explicitly saying that one must love God with everything they have in themselves, and then love their neighbor as themselves, so ultimately you are “loving” your neighbor and God with the same self-love.

 

Mark 12:33 And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.

 

We are taught from the Bible to love God unconditionally and with everything we have, yet we find throughout the pages of Scripture that God loves us in return only conditionally. Does that not seem odd? Maybe it’s time to re-think some of the things we’ve been taught about the quality of the Biblegod’s love to get a clearer picture of his true nature. What if we compared the nature of God’s love to how a mother loves her baby, I think you would be surprised to find that the type of love God expresses in the Bible is not the unconditional love of a mother, but rather it is a conditional type of love most commonly found in fatherly love, which once again is totally in keeping with his masculine portrayal.

 

I have noticed that the way women look at children is different from the way men do. There are two ways of looking at a little kid in an airplane toddling up and down the aisle: one is the way the woman looks at the child; the other is the way the man does. That’s why I say that the prime female power and virtue is compassion: the lack of egoistic isolation, the opening to participation. Even in sex, the man is aggressive, but the woman opens. The opening to that ubiquitous presence which is the ground of us all is compassion. Recognizing that spontaneous feeling, embracing it, and manifesting it in action is the female power.

Excerpt From:  Joseph Campbell. “A Joseph Campbell Companion: Reflections on the Art of Living.”

2 Responses to “The Conditional Love of God”

  • David:

    Hello Rose

    I agree with much of what you have written, but is a mothers’s love completely uncondtional. The bond is strong and mother’s do not abandon their children who turn out to be murders for example. Some mothers abandon their children and do not love their children so that it is not the full picture that is presented when you say that a mother’s love is unconditional. We cannot compare the actions of men and women to the actions of God in every case.

    I am pleased you pointed out the condition associated with John 3:16. It should be noted that there is an element of unconditional love shown by Jesus and God when Jesus laid down his life by way of sacrifice to make the way possible for all men and women to be saved;
    (Romans 5)
    6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
    7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.
    8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
    Jesus did not do this for the godly, but did so for the ungodly.

    The other point you do not mention is the grace and mercy of God. Though undeserving we can be the recipients of God’s grace. In that we deserve punishment for wrong doing, God is merciful and we could say is lenient. Is the judicial system today any better?

    Those who love God and keep his instruction have nothing to fear. Those who ignore God’s instruction and do their own thing, only have the consequence of their actions to fear that can affect themselves as much as their actions affect others.

    Show me one example of God punishing a person or persons that is not first brought about by them doing things contrary to God’s instruction and which are a moral abomination. Man must be blamed first before God is wrongly accused of moral abominations.

    God is love to those who love and fear Him. (1 john 4:18)There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
    19 We love him, because he first loved us.

  • Rose:

    Hi David,

    Glad you stopped by my blog for a visit. When I spoke of a mothers unconditional love, and fathers conditional it was in general terms, not a case by case example, but rather to show that as a general rule the Bible portrays the love of God as being a conditional type of fathers love. Of course there are cases of mothers rejecting their children, just like there are cases of fathers unconditionally loving their children. As far as there being an element of unconditional love in the sacrifice of Jesus, I fail to see it simply because the foundation of his love is conditional, so anything built upon that has a conditional aspect to it. Also, Jesus gave nothing of himself that wasn’t returned to him manifold times…he didn’t really lose his life because he had the power to take it back. Everything Jesus did was preordained and required to earn the love of his father, but also with the knowing that he was one with his father so could never be separated.

    Talking about God’s grace and mercy leads us into murky waters simply because his grace and mercy are only meted out in response to actions he himself has inflicted upon his creation. For example; there is no grace or mercy in the Garden story, only extreme punishment for naive disobedience…no rational parent would ever treat their children in the manner God did in the Garden story.

    I find 1John 4:18 a bit ironic in speaking of no fear being found in love, when the very root of loving God is based on fear. Fearing God is spoken of over and over again throughout the Old Testament, and into the New. Humans do not love God because he loves them, they love God because they fear him.

    Luke 12:5 But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.

    Love and fear cannot both abide in the same house, because if one thinks they love because of fear it is not really love at all, rather it is “forced respect” for fear of consequences. The only true love is unconditional…given without threats or conditions.

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