Years ago I was at a conference that featured a debate between a conservative Christian apologist and a liberal retired Episcopalian bishop on the biblical view of homosexuality. Despite obvious disagreements, in answer to prayer, the demeanor and treatment of the debaters and the audience was respectful.
Members of the audience were given time to line up at a microphone to ask questions. I will never forget one woman asked, “How would you define unconditional love?” Despite his experience and brilliance, the apologist was taken by surprise by the question, and I thought his answer didn’t meet the question.
That question was crucial and could have been the tipping point of the debate. The debate lined up according to views of Scripture, text, and interpretation, but the question was about the kind of love for which we all long, and it went to the heart of the debate because within that question were questions of love, sin, forgiveness, repentance, and acceptance. I know the family background of abuse and abandonment that can cause someone to struggle with their sexuality—because my own brother was in the homosexual lifestyle. I didn’t know the questioner, but I could guess at possible emotions that caused her to publicly ask it. My brother had attempted suicide.
I’ve thought of that question many times over the years. What would I have said? How do you answer those locked in their sin who in all probability grew up with the worst kind of rejection?
I was at that debate some ten years after my brother died of AIDS. He never asked me that exact question, but still those questions of love, sin, forgiveness, repentance, acceptance, whether spoken or unspoken, were always there. I loved my brother, I loved my God, and so I kept working to love him, but yet not have our relationship lead me to excuse sexual immorality. I knew that to truly love my brother, I must love God first and honor Him as God. It was a hard path.
Earlier this year I was reading R. C. Sproul’s book, In Search of Dignity. In the second chapter, “The Search For Love,” he touches on the Old Testament meaning of God’s love, and then goes through 1 Corinthians 13 in great detail.1 As he quoted verse 8, “Love never fails,” I remembered the lyrics of the song, Have Mercy On Me, from Psalm 51, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your unfailing love.” My mind went instantly to that debate question, and I thought, that’s it. That’s the right word: unfailing. God’s love is steadfast; His love never fails, because He never fails.
Don’t speak of God’s unconditional love; it is the wrong description for it can be inferred God abrogates His holiness in His love. Speak rather of God’s unfailing love: His love “that will not let go.”2
Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their transgressions against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
During this coming Easter week, I pray you will know and trust the God whose love is unfailing!
Heart-[foto & Concept by paul b. toman]: Plismo. (CC BY-SA 3.0).
LSB: Legacy Standard Bible New Testament with Psalms and Proverbs (Steadfast Bibles, Irvine CA: 2021).
1R. C. Sproul, In Search of Dignity (Regal Books, Ventura CA: 1983). The book has been reprinted with a new title, The Hunger for Significance: Seeing the Image of God in Man. While I love the subtitle, I think the original title is far better.
2“The Love That Will Not Let Go”
Copyright ©2021 Iwana Carpenter