"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

Unconditional Love for a Person Means Unconditional Approval of the Person

This morning I came across a quote on Facebook that perplexed me. Troubled would be too strong of a word to describe my initial feelings when I read it. The quote simply nagged me; it hung on my mind like a piece of dead skin that can't naturally turn loose. So I finally dealt with it by analyzing the point being made and came to the conclusion that I disagree. The quote, unattributed, said:

"Some people mistake unconditional love with unconditional approval."

I think just the opposite is true. Unconditional love IS unconditional approval.  If you unconditionally love someone it means that you unconditionally approve of that someone Approval is defined by Websters' as "the belief that something or someone is worthy of your acceptance."

I think the author of the quote meant, "Some people mistake unconditional love for a person with unconditional approval of that person's actions." If that is what the quote actually said, I would agree. But that is not what the quote says. The object of the love and the object of the approval does not change from person to actions in the quote. For this reason I can't agree with it.

The trouble, in my opinion, is people don't understand that unconditional love of a person is unconditional approval of the person.

An Illustration

I know a father who did not approve of his seventeen year old daughter dating an older man. The relationship, from the perspective of the father, was unhealthy for his daughter. The father unconditionally loved his daughter and unconditionally approved of his daughter, but the father neither loved nor approved of the actions of his daughter in dating this man. The father gave his daughter two weeks to break up with her boyfriend and told her that if she could not, he would break off the relationship for her. After two weeks the daughter was unable to end the relationship, so the father went to the man and told him that he was forbidden to have any contact with his daughter, and if he violated those boundaries, he would be answering to the father. The father was gracious and kind to the man, explaining that this decision to break off the dating relationship was for the good of his daughter, whom he loved unconditionally. 

Upon arriving home and telling his seventeen year old daughter what he had done, the daughter flew into rage. She yelled at the top of her lungs, "I hate you" over and over again. The father calmly, and gently told his daughter that he loved her even though she felt hatred toward him. He explained that even if she continued to feel hatred and expressed it verbally to her father until the day she died, he would always love and approve of her as a person. He intervened in her dating relationship because he loved his  minor daughter and disapproved of his daughter's actions.

 "But what if I run away and marry this man without your approval. What then?"

"Oh, please don't misunderstand sweetheart!" said the father. "You will always have my approval as a person, even if you run away and marry him. The fact that your mom and dad will not financially support you in your decision, assist you in continuing the relationship, or be a part of any wedding plans does not mean that we don't approve of you. On the contrary, it means that we love you. We see your relationship with this man as unhealthy, and if we didn't love you, we would not intervene!  We will always unconditionally love you, and if you choose to bear the consequences of running away (the loss of financial support), we will love and approve of you just as I am doing right now while you are filled with hatred for me. Your actions never change our love and approval of you as a person. We unconditionally love you and accept you--period!"

The relationship the daughter had with the young man ended. In time, the girl met another man, the "man of her dreams," and she forgot all about her old flame. The one thing that did linger with her, however, was the feelings of being unconditionally loved by her father that day as she yelled "I hate you!" to him. Years later she would explain to her dad that his warm embrace and tender love for her as a person, even when she was a hate-filled daughter, taught her what genuine love and personal approval was all about.

Love for the Person in the Midst of Sin

Unconditional love--love that is independence of one's performance (agape love)--is THE mark of genuine Christianity. It is by this love that people know we are followers of Christ. Too love like this is a gift of grace. This love is magnetic and transforming. Once experienced, it changes you. Once it changes you, others are changed around you. Unconditional love of a person is unconditional approval of that person. That doesn't mean that you approve of all the actions of the person you love, it means that because you love that person and always approve that person, you will consistently do what is best for that person in the midst of his or her sin. You expose sin, never cover it. You call an action immoral because it is. You turn a person over to police because of a criminal action. In other words, you abhor that which should be abhorred--the action, not the person.

BECAUSE unconditional love is unconditional approval of that person, you find ways to communicate your love to that person in the midst of immorality, while helping to escape from it. You hang in there loving that person, even while turning the person over for his crimes, and even though the criminal makes life very uncomfortable. You risk being hated as you help the one you love identify, expose, and forsake sin. The unwillingness to allow any immoral or criminal action to drive you away is the sign you truly love and approve of a person.

Everybody of sane mind is sickened and revolted by the criminal actions of Jerry Sandusky. I've been wondering the last couple of days who in this world has really loved and approved of Jerry Sandusky the person. I'm not expecting you or me to love Jerry Sandusky; we don't even know him. I'm just wondering who the Sandusky in my life is?



Anonymous said...

Twist and Spin

Make a story say whatever you want,

"and she forgot all about her old flame"

So why are we even worried about those young boys that had contact with Jerry Sandusky, if they will only forget?

Oh that's right, you have the best experience with predators.
(but not victims)

wadeburleson.org said...


I either don't write well or you struggle with reading comprehension. I am arguing that the victims SHOULD BE PROTECTED. and that Jerry Sandusky SHOULD HAVE BEEN STOPPED by being turned over to police. That's real love.

Anonymous said...

I either don't write well or you struggle with reading comprehension. I am arguing that the victims SHOULD BE PROTECTED. and that Jerry Sandusky SHOULD HAVE BEEN STOPPED by being turned over to police. That's real love.

Thu Nov 10, 04:50:00 PM 2011

Sorry, but that did not come across at all. People think of unconditional approval as approval of actions whether you say it is or not. Unconditional love is not alway unconditional approval.

You are attempting to seperate the actions of a person with the person. But that view becomes sick when it comes to the rape of 10 year old boys. I cannot seperate his actions from who he is.

I would like to see you argue this with 1 Corin 5 in mind. While Paul loved the person in sin, he counseled kicking him out so he would be saved. He did not communicate that he "approved" of the person.

I think the semantics in this post are reaching.

wadeburleson.org said...


"I cannot separate his actions from who he is."

I am grateful that God is able to do that very thing with you and me.

Rob Faircloth said...

What about the Colorado parents who are commended for the "unconditional love" they show to their elementary-aged boy, who is living as a girl and forced his admission to the Girl Scouts. What the world sees as unconditional love is affirming behavior under any conditions.

The Christian must show the radically different "conditions" under which affirmation is given, and the "love" which disciplines.

wadeburleson.org said...


Again, I do not think I am being heard. The parents in your illustration may, in their minds, be showing unconditional love, BUT THEY ARE NOT. Unconditional love "calls an immoral action immoral," "reveals sin rather than covers it," and refuses to join in the advancement of sin.

Those parents in your illustration have no clue of what it means to unconditionally love someone, and there is a simple answer as to why they don't.

They have not (and may never) experience the unconditional love of God the Father in Christ. The primary blessing of God's grace is justification (which the parents show no evidence of possessing) and the highest blessing of grace is adoption. They do not have God as their Father.

In other words, God only unconditionally loves and unconditionally approves of those who have come to Him by (in) Christ.

Everybody else bears His conditional love and His personal disaproval (hell)--both in this life and for eternity.

Bob Cleveland said...

How about this:

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

Those who would withhold their love (and approval) from someone, because of actions they don't like, had best come to grips with the fact that they'd still be lost if God had held that same view of them.

"You clean yourself up and then I'll accept you"? I hardly think so.

One of my mentors from many, many years ago said "If you tell a person he's lost, you'd better do it with a tear in your eye". Maybe that's what's missing in these days of curiously declining numbers among those who think they have a handle on the best news in the world.

wadeburleson.org said...

Well said, Bob.

Well said.

Anonymous said...

wadeburleson.org said...
"I either don't write well or you struggle with reading comprehension."
"I am grateful that God is able to do that very thing with you and me."

I felt that, ouch !!

I guess I've been too used to the stores Jesus told,

that i get confused with a preacher's Cinderella story, when she met the "man of her dreams,"

and a young boy who only wished he was "dreaming" when he met Jerry Sandusky

I just know your past story of another predator, Alan H.,

and that didn't fly either.

Bob, If your quoting scripture than read Matthew 18:6 ;

"But whoso shall cause one of these little ones that believe on me to stumble, it is profitable for him that a great millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be sunk in the depth of the sea."

Sure doesn't sound like your lovie dovie quote.

Anonymous said...

I am grateful that God is able to do that very thing with you and me.

Thu Nov 10, 10:02:00 PM 2011

Actually, it is conditional. I must repent and believe.

wadeburleson.org said...


Au contraire.

Repentance and faith are gifts to those whom God unconditionally loves.

Anonymous said...

Repentance and faith are gifts to those whom God unconditionally loves.

Sat Nov 12, 10:01:00 AM 2011

Sorry but I do not believe God repents for me. I believe the Holy Spirit convicts me of my sin and helps me through the narrow gate but I choose whether to continue in sin or not.

I believe I have some responsiblity in the matter. Jesus told people to "repent and believe". Why would he tell this to people who cannot?

Anonymous said...

It will be a wonder if anybody gets in:

wadeburleson.org said...
"I am grateful that God is able to do that very thing with you and me."

Anonymous said...
"Actually, it is conditional. I must repent and believe."

wadeburleson.org said...
"Repentance and faith are gifts to those whom God unconditionally loves."

Anonymous said...
"I believe the Holy Spirit convicts me of my sin and helps me through the narrow gate but I choose whether to continue in sin or not. "

Just doesn't fit "For God so Loved the Whole World"

Oh that's right, God only Loves the Select Few, like Allen or Jerry?

wadeburleson.org said...

Au contraire, again.

(You should be called au contraire instead of anonymous).

First, God has chosen to save "an innumerable company" from "every nation, every tongue, every tribe and every family" (i.e. "the world"), and not a "chosen few" as you wrongly suggest.

Second, it is NEVER God's repentance or God's faith. He needs no repentance nor faith. When it is said faith and repentace are "gifts" it only means that God uncovers the blind eyes of the sinner, softens the heardened heart of the sinner, and internally changes the desires of the sinner so that there is the ability for the sinner to believe and the sinner to repent. Without this intervention of God's grace, men would continue in their trespasses and sins and die unregenerate. The fact that we are hard toward God is our fault. They fact that we become soft toward Him is a credit to His grace.