No, I don’t love my husband unconditionally. In fact, I am insulted by the idea of it.
Somehow, the idea of “unconditional love” has been accepted by our culture as the most pure and true form of love possible. To love someone for personal gain is considered vulgar and opposite to love.
This idea of unconditional love isn’t just an application in romantic and familial relationships—it has entered our theology as well. God’s love must be unconditional because “to place conditions is a human limitation and sinful.” Some think a good, loving God would only love his creation unconditionally—even irrationally.
I am here to say, this is false.
Unconditional love does not exist.
To love without conditions is to not love at all. Think about what it means, what it would really mean to love someone without conditions. This means one loves without a reason—not because of a person’s virtues or how a person makes them feel, but for the sake of “love”. This is meaningless, because to love means to have a deep care and attachment based on value.
Imagine if, in a romantic relationship, one person said to another, “I don’t love you because you are good, but because I want to ‘love.’ I think loving is the right thing to do. I don’t need a reason.” It would mean they do not love the person’s virtues.
I don’t accept that. If love is anything, it’s a response to value. Any other form of “love” is simply pity.
I am willing to admit that I love my husband purely for personal gain. That may sound foreign to most people. But let me explain what it means. I love my husband because he has virtues that make my life better. These qualities challenge me as a person and I benefit from them. That’s personal gain. And I value him so much that I’m willing to make a lifelong commitment to marriage with him.
Neither does God love us unconditionally.
Calling God’s love unconditional is a misnomer. God’s mercy and grace—manifested in forgiveness for sins is mistaken to be “unconditional.” But in fact the condition is repentance and submission. Consider John 15:10:
If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.”
Here is an example of God seeking his own self-interest in relation to us by setting conditions. Our holy God is stating the requirement for fellowship with him, which is rational.
Conditions are a good thing.
Conditions are not sinful. If the relationship is to be based on values, conditions are needed.
While I do not love my husband unconditionally—I love him for his virtue and goodness to me—I am committed to our marriage unconditionally. This means I may not love my husband forever. If he were to become evil, no longer treat me well, or lack virtue, at some point I would cease to love him. However, when we took our vows and made a covenant I did promise to remain committed to our marriage, regardless of the future.
I urge you: be open about loving conditionally. To devalue your conditions is to devalue love and yourself.